Gilbert, AZ police arrest Mesa employee accused of tampering with water treatment plant
A Mesa wastewater employee faces terrorism charges after police say he shut down a Southeast Valley wastewater treatment plant, creating a buildup of methane gas and sparking a standoff with Gilbert SWAT.
Authorities said Robert Olson, 43, began shutting down the plant about midnight Friday after accessing several buildings at the facility located at 4400 S. Greenfield Road in Gilbert. Nearly three hours later, Olson called 911 stating he was armed with a handgun, said Sgt. Bill Balafas, a police spokesman.
“Mr. Olson was the sole employee on the midnight shift at the facility,” Balafas said. “Because of the coordinated response and systems safeguards at the treatment facility, there was no risk of danger to the community. Mr. Olson’s actions did endanger the lives of the first responders.”
Mesa police and Gilbert SWAT officers responded to the plant, which is owned by Mesa, Gilbert and Queen Creek but operated by Mesa.
A two-hour standoff ended when Olson surrendered at 4:30 a.m., Balafas said. He was booked into the Maricopa County 4th Avenue Jail on suspicion of terrorism, making terrorist threats, misconduct involving weapons, tampering with a public utility, criminal trespassing and criminal damage to property.
And this, which I believe could be and probably is an attempted attack…
Answers sought in fainting spells on jet
Staff photo by Jim Witmer Workers are seen attending to an American Airlines jet at the Dayton International Airport on April 1 after three emergency squads responded to a call after a passenger jet made an emergency landing due to passengers becoming ill.
DAYTON — American Airlines officials are analyzing flight recorder data to determine the problem that forced a flight to Chicago to make an emergency landing Friday at Dayton International Airport.
Information downloaded from the plane’s flight recorders was sent to the airline’s maintenance base in Tulsa, Okla., said Ed Martelle, an American Airlines spokesman.
“They can very often identify where the problem lies before they even have to start moving metal,” he said.
Martelle did not expect to know before Saturday what forced American Airlines Flight 547 to make an emergency landing in Dayton.
Stranded passengers were taken to Chicago on Friday afternoon on a replacement aircraft, Martelle said. Airline mechanics arrived on the replacement flight to inspect the diverted plane for problems and make any necessary repairs, if possible, he said.
Pilots on Flight 547 declared an emergency, then landed in Dayton on Friday morning after several of the 132 people aboard complained of illnesses.
At least four passengers fainted aboard the flight from Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Oxygen masks were deployed, and the plane diverted to land at the Dayton airport.
The incident happened about 8:15 a.m. Friday, said Terrence Slaybaugh, director of the Dayton airport.
Pilots initially attributed the problem to the airplane’s air system, Slaybaugh said.
Martelle said that flight attendants became dizzy and asked the pilots to drop the oxygen masks. Four passengers did not get their masks on and lost consciousness, Martelle said.
The plane was a Boeing 737 manufactured in 1999, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. It was carrying 126 passengers, two pilots and four flight attendants, Martelle said.
A passenger, Christina Saull of Washington, D.C., said the plane had pushed out of the gate at Reagan but had not left the tarmac when an announcement was made about problems with the air and cabin pressurization system.
Saull, who was traveling with her husband Bradley, said maintenance personnel arrived, came onto the plane and went into the cockpit. The plane eventually took off, she said.
“Halfway through the flight, the woman in the row behind us … we thought she had a seizure,” Saull said.
They quickly learned that woman and another woman next to her had passed out. Then some passengers who were 10 rows in front of the Saulls started complaining about smelling fumes.
“I didn’t smell anything,” she said. “Other passengers were complaining about being light-headed … Five minutes later, they were announcing they were going to drop the masks.”
Saull said she thought the passengers were pretty calm despite the situation.
“There were no warning lights or indicators,” Saull said of what was going on during the emergency landing.
Once on the ground, people flying for business reasons began working out of coffee shops in the airport.
“There were definitely people having meetings via cellphones, sitting in Starbucks,” Saull said.
Medics from Dayton, Vandalia and Butler Twp. were dispatched to the airport, followed by two additional medical calls, said Gil Turner, an airport spokesman. One flight attendant and two passengers were transported to area hospitals for treatment.
One of the ill passengers was accompanied to the hospital by a family member who also was on the flight, Martelle said. Both people later rejoined the rest of the stranded passengers at the airport, he said.
The condition of the flight attendant and second passenger who were hospitalized was unknown, Martelle said.
An additional passenger was examined at the airport but refused medical transport, Turner said.
The remaining passengers awaited the replacement flight in American Airlines holding area at the airport. “Getting them to Chicago is the ultimate goal,” Martelle said.
Transporting the passengers to their final destinations was a challenge because it is a Friday and flights are full, Slaybaugh said.
The passengers’ luggage was removed from the original plane to be reloaded on the replacement flight. There was nothing to indicate an act of terrorism, Martelle said.