Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Every story has a Miami connection....

An FBI agent delivers ransom money to hijacked Delta Airlines jet at Miami
International Airport, July 31, 1972, Photo by Phil Sandlin/UPI.
(Click image to enlarge.)

...even 39 years later.

George Wright, a killer, turned prison escapee, turned airplane hijacker has been nabbed in Portugal, more than 39 years after he hijacked a Detroit to Miami Delta Airlines flight on July 31, 1972.

From the FBI press release:
On July 31, 1972, five adults, accompanied by three small children, hijacked Delta flight 841 en route from Detroit to Miami. Subsequent investigation identified [George] Wright as one of the hijackers.

Upon landing in Miami, Wright and his associates demanded a $1 million ransom in exchange for the passengers—the largest ransom of its kind at that time. After releasing the passengers, Wright and his associates forced the plane to fly to Boston for refueling and the addition of another pilot, and then proceeded across the Atlantic to Algeria where they sought asylum. At the request of the United States government, the money and plane were eventually seized and returned by Algeria to the Unites States. Wright and his associates were briefly taken into custody but were eventually released after a few days.
FBI agent wearing only swim trunks, delivers ransom money
to hijacked Delta jet in Miami on July 31, 1972.
(AP Photo by James Kerlin)

The story was front page news in Miami.

One journalist who covered the dramatic events on that sweltering day in 1972 was Phil Sandlin, then a staff photographer for United Press International.

Sandlin, who's retired and now lives in central Florida, told me by phone today that he remembers taking up a position at a fence near NW 36th Street and 57th Ave.

Working with almost no information, Sandlin framed the plane with his Nikon fitted with a 560mm Leitz telephoto lens and waited.

After an indeterminable wait, an FBI agent dressed only in swim trunks appeared with a suitcase stuffed with a million dollars in ransom.

As blistering heat shimmered off the tarmac, Sandlin captured an image of the agent handing the ransom to the hijackers.

Watch the videos from NBC and CBS News below.

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