No arrests were made after suspicious wires were found on a Delta Air Lines flight that returned to Kennedy Airport Thursday night while on its way to Madrid, but police Friday continued to investigate how the wires got aboard the flight.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said that investigators on Friday were trying to find out whether the wires were brought on board Delta Flight 126 or perhaps had been left over from an earlier flight and simply missed by a cleaning crew.
In a telephone interview, King said a "perfect storm" of indications that something might have been wrong occurred when the plane was about 100 miles east of Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
"It turns out that everything was fine," King said. "There's no incident at all. They checked all the passengers. No one is on a watch list. The item itself seems to be totally harmless."
A law enforcement source who had been briefed on the incident said Friday that the item involved two brown straws with single strands of wire inside and covered in black insulation.
The ends of the wire had the insulation stripped off, and around the middle of the segments of wire was black tape, the source said. A passenger found the item in a lavatory about 8:50 p.m. and alerted airline personnel. Air marshals examined it and decided the plane should be turned back to be safe, the source said.
"It's a head-scratcher," the source said of the incident. "I wouldn't even call it a device."
King said no explosives were involved, or even traces of explosives.
Passengers and luggage were rescreened before the plane was allowed to leave for Madrid at 3:43 a.m. Friday.
A female passenger said she was having trouble breathing about the same time the air marshal discovered the device and he became suspicious that she was trying to create a diversion. The woman was questioned after the plane landed at Kennedy but was cleared to get back on the plane for the Madrid flight, the law enforcement source said.
The Transportation Security Administration issued a brief statement Thursday night, saying Delta Flight 126 returned to Kennedy after a "suspicious item" was found on board.
"As a precautionary measure, the plane taxied to a remote location, where passengers were escorted off the plane," the TSA statement said. "The aircraft was searched with negative results."