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Riverview man causes trans-Atlantic flight to divert, dad says

A former Air Force member from Riverview who caused a trans-Atlantic flight to divert Tuesday after claiming that he had explosives in his luggage lives a "squeaky clean" life, his dad said.

Derek Stansberry, 26, served four years in the Air Force before leaving about a year ago for a job with a company that does work with the Air Force, said his father, Richard Stansberry.

Richard Stansberry said government officials told him that the man who was detained after the Paris-to-Atlanta flight was diverted to Maine on Tuesday is his son — and he's just as perplexed as they were about the reasons.

It was the second time since Friday that a man from the bay area had disrupted a Delta flight.

Last week, on a red-eye from Los Angeles to Tampa that was diverted to Albuquerque, Stanley Dwayne Sheffield, 46, of Largo was tackled by passengers who included Tampa Bay Rays color commentator Kevin Kennedy after they say Sheffield tried to open a cabin door and sprayed water.

On Tuesday's trip from Paris, there were 235 passengers and 13 crew members aboard Delta Air Lines Flight 273. The flight landed safely just after 3:30 p.m. at Bangor International Airport in Maine.

According to U.S. officials, the suspect claimed to have explosives in his luggage and a fake passport. But they said his passport proved to be authentic, and they found no explosives.

"My son's profession in the military required he live a squeaky clean life," said Richard Stansberry, who lives in Apollo Beach and who received the Bronze Star for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Transportation Security Administration said the detained passenger was being interviewed by law enforcement.

"It was definitely surreal, something you only hear about," said Charde Houston, an all-star forward for the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx who was on the flight.

Houston, 24, said that when Tuesday's flight landed, FBI agents boarded the plane and helped remove the suspect, who was wearing handcuffs.

"He looked extremely calm, like a blank face. No emotion," Houston said.

Richard Stansberry said he has not been able to speak to his son.

"Unfortunately, I don't think they'd let him call me," the elder Stansberry said. "In a situation like this, the government is doing what it is supposed to do."

In Washington, Air Force Lt. Col. Linda Pepin said the man detained on the plane was a senior airman and worked as an intelligence specialist. She said he was on active duty from June 2005 to 2009 and was last stationed at Hurlburt Field in the Panhandle.

Records show that Derek Stansberry bought a home in Riverview in 2009, having previously lived in California and at Hurlburt Field.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command did not launch any military fighters in response to the flight, spokesman John Cornelio said.

"By the time we were brought into the equation," the passenger was already under the control of air marshals, Cornelio said.

The Associated Press, Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell and researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Riverview man causes trans-Atlantic flight to divert, dad says 04/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 12:37am]
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