News and Press Releases

Physician Called 9-1-1 Three Times From Sea-Tac Gate in Effort to Make Flight to Memphis

November 21, 2007

KOU WEI CHIU, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to a felony offense of False Information and Threats. On July 25, 2007, CHIU admits he was late for his plane, and so called in bomb threats to try to get the plane held at the gate. When sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones on February 22, 2008, CHIU faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

According to the statement of facts in the plea agreement, on July 25, 2007, CHIU arrived at Sea-Tac airport and was late for his flight home to Memphis, Tennessee. The flight was Northwest Airlines flight 980. CHIU made three calls to 9-1-1 from a payphone near the gate. On each call CHIU falsely reported that there was a bomb on Flight 980. During his first call CHIU told the 9-1-1 operator “Flight 980 Memphis. There may be a bomb on board.” After the first call CHIU saw that the call had “no effect” so he made a second call. When that call too had no effect, CHIU made a third call. At that point, the plane returned to the gate. CHIU admits that he made the calls thinking that the plane would be held in Seattle for a few hours while it was searched, which would allow him time to get on the plane.

Northwest Flight 980 was grounded for several hours. CHIU was arrested at the airport after passengers who had been nearby identified him to police as the person who was heard calling in bomb threats from the payphone. Northwest Airlines lost over $70,000 in fuel, gate fees and other expenses. The Port of Seattle, the Port of Seattle Police and TSA have spent thousands of dollars investigating the case. At sentencing, prosecutors plan to point out the danger of CHIU’s actions, including the fact that CHIU caused the flight to land with a full fuel tank. The Northwest Airlines jet had taken off with a full fuel tank when it was ordered to return because of the bomb threats. Aircrafts do not routinely land with a full fuel tank because they have expended fuel in flight. This emergency landing put additional and unusual stress on the aircraft, and put the lives of passengers and crew at risk.

The case was investigated by the Port of Seattle Police, the Transportation Safety Administration, and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mike Lang.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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