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Plane Makes Emergency Landing after Smoke Smell

Updated at 12:21 a.m. ET

This story was written by CBS News's Stephen Splane.

An American Airlines jet from New York to Los Angeles was diverted to Albuquerque, N.M., Wednesday night after the crew reported smelling smoke in a bathroom which was blamed on "an unruly passenger."

American Airlines spokesman Billy Sanaz told CBS News the plane, a Boeing 767 with 158 passengers and 11 crew members, made a safe landing at Albuquerque Sunport International Airport about 6:30 p.m. ET.

A passenger, who was not identified, "was apprehended by local authorities and is undergoing questioning," Sanaz said.

CBS News executive Mary Noonan was on board the flight. She said passengers were taken off the plane and spent three hours on the tarmac while investigators searched the plane before passengers were allowed back on the jet.

Noonan said she did not see the suspect being taken off the plane, but she did smell smoke near a bathroom, saying "it smelled like matches or a cigarette.

"A few people refused to re-board the plane" because they feared for their safety, Noonan said. Airline officials told passengers they were unable to remove the suspect's baggage from the plane before it took off for Los Angeles.

Just before the flight was scheduled to depart, Noonan said passengers were asked to get off the plane again so FBI agents could perform another search of the plane.

Noonan said the plane departed Albuquerque just after midnight Eastern time.

The Transportation Security Administration released a statement saying the plane was searched as a precautionary measure.

"TSA was notified of a passenger allegedly smoking on board American Airlines flight 117 from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Los Angeles International Airport," the statement read. "Law enforcement officers interviewed the passenger and flight crew, and out of an abundance of caution the plane is currently being swept by canines."

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