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American man charged in Pearson security breach identified

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Apr 7th, 2017

Peel Police are attempting to arrange a bail hearing Thursday night for a 58-year-old American citizen arrested at Pearson International Airport earlier in the day.

Joseph Galaska from Cudahy, Wisconsin was charged with mischief after U.S. Customs Border Protection officials found a mock improvised explosive device (IED) inside his suitcase. He was a passenger on United Airlines flight 547 from Toronto to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

Peel Regional Police Explosive Disposal Unit examined the device and determined is was not explosive.

But, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Transport Canada has launched an investigation into the security incident anyway.

In a statement, CBP officials said the mock IED was discovered during inspection at the pre-clearance facility at Pearson. It has since been tested negative for explosives.

“CBP officers immediately notified Canadian Air Transport Security Authority who swabbed the mock IED for explosives with a negative result,” the statement reads.

Authorities inspected the aircraft and re-screened all of the passengers and their baggage before giving the all-clear.

Peel regional police said they are now responsible for the investigation.

U.S. customs said all operations have resumed.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which oversees the running of the airport, said the incident aboard the United airlines flight did not impact other airport operations.

The flight was supposed to depart Pearson at 7 a.m., but after being stuck on the tarmac for four hours, passengers were told they have to get off offloaded to an isolation area. The passengers have since been released from the isolation area.

According to the GTAA website, the flight is now scheduled to depart Pearson at 4 p.m.

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Kelsey Kruzel, a passenger on the plane, sent CityNews a video she recorded of the update passengers received from a United representative in the isolation room.

“The issue was there was a passenger whose bags didn’t get cleared from Sao Paolo and it went on the aircraft,” the man told passengers.

Earlier in the day, another passenger on board the flight, told CityNews the plane was sitting on the tarmac since 7 a.m.

“They told us there was going to be a delay based on weather … later they came back and they said there was a security issue but they weren’t very specific as to what it was,” Dal Gemmell told CityNews over the phone. At the time, he was still on the plane.

During the interview, a member of the flight crew could be overheard on the P.A. system telling passengers they have to deplane and take their carry-on luggage with them.

Gemmell said they were being transported onto a bus, which would take them to an isolation area. Passengers have to then be re-screened by customs before re-boarding.

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By the time they deplaned, passengers had been on the plane for four hours. Gemmell said they were given several updates during that time but the information kept changing.

First, they were told the plane would be towed to an isolation area. Then, they were told sniffer dogs would be brought on board and then they would deplane. Later, they were told passengers would be taken by bus to an isolation area.

“If there was such a major security breach … why didn’t they get us off the plane earlier,” Gemmell questioned.

Initially, United tweeted that the delay was “due to security screening regulated by the government.”

A United flight from San Francisco to Chicago was also delayed but it was due to a maintenance issue, the airline said.

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