Chile Traveler Fakes Bomb Threats, Disrupts Nine Flights Over Lost Luggage
Nine commercial flights ground to a halt Thursday, including several that were forced to make emergency landings, after a Chilean traveler made anonymous bomb threats in frustration over lost luggage.
Franco Sepulveda Robles placed a series of anonymous phone calls to a ticket counter, a LATAM operations center in Colombia and to civil aviation authorities, according to Victor Villalobos Callao, the director of Chile's Civilian Aviation Authority. Callao said a total of 11 threats were received, two of which were directed at flights that "did not exist", while "a procedure" was carried out for the remaining nine to check for explosives. Callao did not specify how the procedures were executed, but stated no bombs were found.
According to Santiago police chief Diego Rojas, initial investigations indicate that Robles "planned a flight that left his suitcase, that did not return it, and he, annoyed with the companies and with the entire air traffic control system, would have made these calls to make things complicated."
One LATAM flight carrying 83 people from Lima (LIM) to Santiago (SCL) was safely evacuated after making an unscheduled landing in Pisco, according to local officials. Two other flights operated by Chilean budget carrier Sky Airlines departing Santiago for Rosario, Argentina (ROS) and the northern Chilean city of Calama (CJC) were able to return to Santiago without incident.
Robles was arrested in the northern Chilean city of Antofagasta, and will be taken to Santiago to begin legal procedures, where he could be charged with security law infringement, which carries a penalty of up to five years in jail.
The same day Robles phoned in the bomb threats, another unnamed traveler was arrested at Santiago International Airport after joking about an explosive device in his luggage. "He was arrested immediately, it was determined to be a joke — it was a terrible joke — and today he will have to face a constitutional court. His case will be processed and he will be put at the disposal of the courts," Rojas said.