NAIROBI, Kenya – Following the emergency landing of a Boeing 777 flight last Sunday, the CEO of Air France announced that the suspicious device discovered in the bathroom of the aircraft was a hoax.
The flight from the island nation of Mauritius to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris was diverted to make an emergency landing in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa.
“This object did not contain explosives,” said Fredric Gagey, CEO of Air France in a Paris news conference, adding the device was made of cardboard, paper and a household timer.
Gagey went on to state a security check of the bathroom had been done prior to take-off and that passengers are checked and sometimes double checked as part of pre-flight safety procedures. Gagey also congratulated the crew for their cool-headed reaction to the incident.
Kenyan officials are questioning six passengers over the incident. One of the men being questioned is said to be the individual who reported the device to the cabin crew, prompting the emergency landing.
The flight carrying 459 passengers and 14 crew left Mauritius at 9 p.m., according to Kenyan police spokesman Charles Owino.
“The plane just went down slowly, slowly, slowly, so we just realized probably something was wrong,” Benoit Lucchini, a passenger from Paris, told journalists after leaving the plane in Mombasa.
“The personnel of Air France was just great, they were just wonderful. So they keep everybody calm. We did not know what was happening,” said Lucchini. “So we secured the seat belt to land in Mombasa because we thought it was a technical problem but actually it was not a technical problem. It was something in the toilet. Something wrong in the toilet, it could be a bomb.”
Sunday’s incident follows the diversion of a pair of Air France flights bound for Paris on Nov. 18 following bomb threats. The planes from Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. were found to have no bombs on board.
France has been under a state of emergency following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris which killed 130 people. Concern for flight safety has also been heightened following an Oct. 31 crash of a Russian plane in Egypt. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on the plane which killed 224.