- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Kaela Vessels and her friends from Campbellsville University didn’t know until landing that their flight from Paris to Charlotte, N.C., was making news.
The college senior from Vine Grove asked a flight attendant what area the plane was flying over as the U.S. Airways 787 plane reached the coast of the United States. She was surprised when she heard the answer — Maine.
The pilot told passengers, including Vessels and others from her college’s mission trip to Niger, that strong winds over the Atlantic Ocean meant the plane needed to make an unscheduled stop in Bangor, Maine, to refuel.
Vessels said the passengers accepted the news and were unaware anything was wrong until Border Patrol agents entered the plane and left with a handcuffed woman. Passengers assumed the woman had been sick during the flight.
“They dragged this lady off the plane,” she said.
Vessels saw a dog with law enforcement officials near the woman’s luggage and thought she must be watching a drug bust.
The dog “was kind of going crazy standing next to her bags,” she said.
Vessels used a friend’s phone to text her mother, letting her know the flight had been redirected and she might be late for her plane to Louisville. She was surprised and confused when her mother immediately responded she was glad everyone on the plane was all right after reports of a security risk.
Similar texts first told the passengers they had been part of a drama playing out on news broadcasts. Reports said a woman from Cameroon might have explosives on board.
The threat of danger wasn’t revealed to passengers until the woman and her luggage had been removed from the plane.
Then the pilot apologized for keeping the information from passengers and explained the situation, asking them to leave the plane while it was searched in the deserted section of runway where it had landed, Vessels said.
“I felt like everyone in the world knew before we did,” she said.
Vessels said passengers remained calm after they learned about the danger for the first time.
“We were all just looking at each other,” she said. “It was a pretty bizarre incident.”
During the flight, Vessels and her friends hadn’t even suspected there was a problem as the woman paced in the aisle next to them a few times.
“She looked fine,” she said. “She looked normal.”
After a time, the woman began holding her stomach and airline employees asked whether any passengers were medical professionals. Vessels said the woman spent the rest of the flight surrounded by flight attendants and medical professionals.
She didn’t know until the arrest the woman had been handcuffed or might pose a danger.
“I’m really glad that he kept us in the dark,” she said. “We all probably would have freaked out. I really liked the way that they took care of the situation.”
Vessels feels as confident as she always has about flying and her parents handled the situation fairly well.
She thought the mission trip was great and the flight gave her a story to tell.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.