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Mystery switch triggers panic

The panic-stricken passengers had to wait for at least 10 hours at the Mumbai airport on Monday. A Oman Air flight from Muscat and bound for Chennai landed in the city under emergency conditions after a passenger spotted the suspicious-looking object in the toilet of the aircraft, reports Soubhik Mitra.

india Updated: May 26, 2009 02:24 IST
Soubhik Mitra

At first glance, it appeared to be an innocuous electric switch found in any home.

But a little scrap of paper lying beside it triggered panic which ended up delaying the travel plans of 140 passengers.

The panic-stricken passengers had to wait for at least 10 hours at the Mumbai airport on Monday.

A Oman Air flight from Muscat and bound for Chennai landed in the city under emergency conditions after a passenger spotted the suspicious-looking object in the toilet of the aircraft.

Along with it came a note which read: ‘You all would be dead. Bye’.

The passengers, however, disembarked safely.

Around 12:15 pm, when the aircraft was close to the Mumbai airport, the pilot reported to the Mumbai air traffic control something dangerous found in the aircraft.

The flight landed in the city at 1.15 pm and promptly moved towards the remote bay. “For 45 minutes, the flight did not get any assistance. Fear-stricken passengers, comprising women and children, sat glued to their seats,” said an airport source. “The pilot was in two minds over an explosive planted or a hijack attempt.”

Finally at 2 pm, stepladders were attached and all passengers deplaned. Around 2:40 pm, the bomb detection and disposal squad along with the dog squad the boarded the flight for inspection. The inspection went on till 6.30 pm. Fire brigade and ambulances were also rushed to the bay.

“It appeared to be a mobile-sized electric switch used for domestic purposes,” said Sanjay Prakash, senior commandant, Central Industrial Security Force. “We checked if it was wired. But it was just lying in the toilet.”

Security personnel said it could have been been the handiwork of a mischief-monger.

Passengers, who had boarded the flight from Muscat early on Monday, had to spend the day waiting at the terminal.

The flight finally was scheduled to leave the Mumbai airport around 10 pm.

Despite several attempts, the Mumbai office of Oman Air could not be reached for comment.