Ottawa’s Albert Nassralla knew something was wrong when his WestJet flight from Vancouver to Ottawa suddenly veered over Lake Superior on Wednesday.
Then the pilot addressed passengers over the intercom system. “He announced there was a threat to the aircraft, and we were diverting to Thunder Bay,” Nassralla said.
The RCMP had received a threat that there was an explosive device aboard WestJet Flight 142. Just after 10:30 p.m., the plane was directed to land in a secure area at the Thunder Bay airport, and police mobilized on the ground.
The wait was gruelling, said Nassralla, and passengers were given little information.
“When we got to Thunder Bay, we waited an hour before the police with their arms boarded the aircraft,” he said.
“These guys were there with their guns, looking at you.”
Police officers remained on board the plane for 15 minutes, Nassralla estimated.
“Then they asked us to deplane with our hands in the air. Everything stayed on board. Not allowed to take any things off, whatsoever. I couldn’t even grab my medication.
“I knew one chap who had to get insulin so he had to go to the hospital.”
The police led passengers away from the plane, to a communications centre set up on the tarmac and their information was recorded.
“If we needed to use the washroom, there was grass by the tarmac, filled with toilet paper. Everyone used it. You have to go, you have to go,” he said.
Passengers were eventually taken to a local hotel, Nassralla said.
The threat was eventually determined to be “not credible,” according to WestJet, and the plane landed safely in Ottawa Thursday evening.
Passenger Allison Claxton said when the announcement was first made, her mind went to scary places.
“Just that my son’s at home on his own and I’m here on a plane and I’m going to die! It was pretty awful,” she said.
But she commended the crew and said while the search and wait was long and tiring, it was necessary. “We’re all OK and I’m glad they did what they did,” she said.
Nassralla said the authorities performed their duties admirably. “They took care of us well. There was the Red Cross, with a lot of volunteers. Thunder Bay can be commended for what they did,” he said.
“This was a learning caravan for all of them.”
The threat was eventually determined to be “not credible,” according to WestJet, and the plane was scheduled to depart for Ottawa Thursday afternoon.