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Rhode Island man charged with making false bomb threat on airplane

By Ashley R. Williams, CNN

(CNN) — A Rhode Island man faces federal charges for allegedly making threats that forced a Florida flight bound for Providence to make an emergency landing, according to federal prosecutors in Florida.

Evan Sims, 41, was charged with “false information and threats regarding the possession of an explosive on an airplane” after his alleged threats caused the flight to divert to Jacksonville, Florida, the Middle District of Florida US Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

On December 5, Sims was traveling on Breeze Airways flight 717 from Orlando, Florida, when he began arguing with the woman he was traveling with before takeoff, a criminal complaint filed Wednesday by the office says.

“Sims told his travel companion that he had never heard of the airline for the flight and that he hoped the airplane did not ‘go down.’ Sims stated that they would be ‘gone with the wind,’” according to the news release.

The complaint says Sims’ travel companion told him “several times that their relationship was over” and to leave her alone.

Sims made comments to the woman about needing to use the plane’s emergency doors and how the windows “looked like they had not been used,” the complaint states, adding he also allegedly told her he hoped they would not have to use the windows.

He questioned the flight crew about the emergency life raft stored in an overhead compartment, authorities say.

“Sims’s travel companion and the surrounding passengers were uncomfortable with Sims’s statements and Sims’s travel companion asked Sims to stop making his comments,” according to the news release.

Sims partially stood in his seat as the plane ascended, exclaiming that he wanted to get off the flight. He said “approximately two times” his travel partner had a bomb on the plane, according to the complaint.

The flight was then diverted to Jacksonville International Airport, and a search by bomb-detection dogs did not find a bomb, authorities said.

A video taken from inside the plane showed a man and a woman being removed from the plane in handcuffs after the incident, CNN affiliate WFOX/WJAX reported.

Sims and his travel companion were detained at the airport while law enforcement conducted an investigation, according to the complaint.

“Safety is our top priority and we take threats of any kind very seriously,” Breeze Airways spokesperson Gareth Edmondson-Jones told CNN in a statement.

The TSA, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority Airport Police Department and the FBI investigated the case.

Sims faces up to five years in federal prison if convicted. CNN has not yet determined if Sims has a lawyer.

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