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Bomb threat forces airliner evacuation

Tim Mutrie and Ross Kribbs

A New York City man who hinted that a bomb might be in his luggage forced the evacuation of a commercial airliner at Aspen’s Sardy Field Monday afternoon.

Guillaume Pollet, peeved when airline officials refused to return his luggage after bumping him off a flight, was taken into custody and released a few hours later, after authorities confirmed the threat was groundless.

Federal officials indicated they will not pursue criminal charges against Pollet.

Pollet, 34, was bumped off United Express flight 5565, from Aspen to Denver, along with his girlfriend, when high winds forced airline officials to lighten the plane’s load.

“[Pollet’s] bag had already gone onto the airplane and the airline’s rules don’t allow for it to be removed once it’s on, so when he was told that his bag was going to Denver and he wasn’t, he got upset,” said Deputy Michael Kendrick of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

Pollet then said words to the effect of, “What if I were to say there was a bomb in my luggage?” Kendrick said.

The veiled threat prompted airport officials to evacuate the airplane of passengers. In addition, three sheriff’s deputies, two Aspen police officers and three Aspen firefighters with a truck responded to the scene. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office were also contacted because airports are within federal jurisdiction.

A search of Pollet’s luggage revealed no explosives, Kendrick said.

Kendrick then interviewed Pollet, whom he described as very cooperative.

“I gave the particulars of my interview with him to the FBI [via telephone], who relayed it on to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and they called me back and said they weren’t going to pursue it,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick would not comment specifically on that decision; he referred all questions to the FBI.

“He didn’t make what we would call a specific bomb threat,” Kendrick said. “He shouldn’t have said what he said – the airlines take it seriously and so do we – but we believe his intent was to try to get his bags back off the plane as opposed to somebody who calls up 911 and says there’s a bomb in a school. One person is trying to cause a problem and the other might not be.

“The reality is that airline travel is controlled strictly by the FAA and other federal regulations, and they are difficult to argue with,” Kendrick added. “This all revolved around, `Can I get my bags back?’ and you can’t.”

Once the FBI cleared Pollet to go, he was handed his luggage, and he and his girlfriend rented a car to drive to Denver yesterday afternoon, Kendrick said.

One private airport security guard, however, wasn’t pleased with the incident’s outcome.

“What’s the point in us telling passengers that threats are federal offenses, if they’re not going to prosecute?” said security guard Claudia Moore, following Pollet’s release.

The incident delayed the departure of the flight by about an hour and 15 minutes.


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