A heavy police presence responded to a suspicious item found on a WestJet plane on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. (David Venn - Kelowna Capital News)

Suspicious item forces 47 to evacuate plane at Kelowna airport

Kelowna RCMP continue investigation of suspicious item on airplane

Airport director Sam Samaddar confirmed 47 people and four crew were aboard WestJet flight 3162 to Calgary scheduled to leave the Kelowna International Airport at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19.

Upon discovery of a suspicious item, the airplane was evacuated and passengers returned to the departure terminal.

At 2:06 p.m., YLW was informed of a possible suspicious item on board the flight scheduled to depart from the airport. Kelowna Fire Department, RCMP and Rescue were called in to respond to the incident, but shortly after a command was established, backup was being told to stand down.

The threat was deemed non-credible, YLW communications advisor Jessica Hewitt said in an official report at 3 p.m.

READ MORE: Bomb threat at Kelowna International Airport deemed ‘not credible’

Samaddar said the emergency protocol and procedures were followed closely. The two-part procedure first isolates the aircraft, ensuring all people around the plane are safe, then emergency dedicated agencies are called to respond.

Although Samaddar couldn’t offer details of the suspicious item, he said the Kelowna RCMP continue their investigation.

“Although police do not believe the item poses a threat, RCMP plan to conduct a precautionary search of the aircraft to ensure public safety,” Kelowna RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey said.

READ MORE: Kelowna man nearly drowns on Okanagan Lake

Samaddar said the airport is prepared to act swiftly in case of any emergency or threat including bomb threats. Staff and officials practice drills at least once a year.

An emergency operation centre is located within the airport and it is activated in emergency states, Samaddar said.

“In that centre, we have responding agencies there; RCMP, airport officials, if an airline is involved, an airline representative is there,” he said. The room is also open to B.C. ambulance and the Kelowna Fire Department, if necessary.

In October, the airport will undergo a major disaster exercise, he said.

READ MORE: RCMP searching for missing Kelowna hitchhiker

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Caitlin.clow@kelownacapnews.com

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