A Cuban exile, tricked into thinking he had diverted a jet with 128 people to Havana, faces extradition from Grand Turk in only the second hijacking attempt of a domestic U.S. airliner in 21/2 years, officials said.
Weary but unharmed, the 121 passengers and seven crew members aboard the TWA Boeing 727 flight from San Juan arrived in Miami on Sunday evening. They said the hijacker was not violent and was shocked when he was arrested on Grand Turk, part of the British colony of Turks and Caicos Islands southeast of the Bahamas."He was horrified to realize he had been tricked," said passenger Willie Douglas of Montgomery, Ala.
Robert Blattner, a spokesman at TWA headquarters in St. Louis, identified the would-be hijacker as Felix Sanchez Rodriguez, 26, who left Cuba during the 1980 Mariel boatlift.
Larry Torrence of the FBI's Miami office said the suspect remained in Grand Turk and extradition proceedings were scheduled to begin Monday. A device that Rodriguez claimed was a bomb proved to be harmless, officials said.
Blattner said Rodriguez apparently wanted to return to Cuba to see his ailing mother.
The pilot of the Flight 469 was able to get permission to land on Grand Turk island where police were able to convince Rodriguez he was in Havana, Miller said.