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Aviation attorney says men could face fine for disrupting flight

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Airport officials said three people were taken off a flight Tuesday night and detained by federal officials after displaying what was described as "suspicious activity."

According to Becky Beaman with the Charleston Airport, Southwest flight 3814 headed from Orlando, Fla., to Providence, R.I., was diverted to Charleston shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday after "suspicious activity."

After landing in Charleston, three people were detained by FBI agents and the flight resumed. Officials said the flight was scheduled to land at 1:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Officials said Wednesday morning that the men were pulled from the flight "because these individuals were paying quite a bit of attention to their personal belongings that gave us an indication that there was something in their personal belongings that they shouldn't have had."

Passenger Bobby James told ABCNews that FBI agents and airport police initially took 2 suspects into custody and then came back for a third person.{}

The men were later released.{}

A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines said the passenger "would not comply with our flight attendant's request to stow his luggage," and was removed from the plane as a result. She added that the man will be taking another flight to Rhode Island Wednesday afternoon.

"Either if it's just being disruptive and not obeying the crews of the flight command, or if it's being problematic with shifting bags and taking bags out of the overhead, both would have spelled or could have spelled trouble for Southwest," said aviation attorney Mary Schiavo.

Schiavo said on average, 12 people a day are injured on flights where luggage is opened or shifted during a flight.

"If you open the overhead bins in flight -- people don't realize this, but every year 4,500 people are injured above the skies of America from items falling from overhead bins," said Schiavo.

Schiavo said it is possible the passenger removed from the plane drew attention to himself because of the shifting luggage, not terrorist like activity.

"If there is something you need then by all means you have to talk to the flight attendant, don't touch them," said Schiavo.{}

A spokesperson with the Transportation Security Administration said this was a customer service issue with the airline and TSA does not have the authority to make any arrests.

Schiavo said it's also probable this incident was alcohol-induced.

"Most of the time there is either alcohol or medication involved. It's almost -- I won't say unanimous but almost all the time there's something involved. If you are that much out of control on a plane, usually you will find there's been drinking or someone's taken too much or not enough medication," she said.

Schiavo said the Federal Aviation Administration could issue a civil aviation security penalty which, on average, is a $2,000 fine.

There were 135 passengers and five crew members onboard the flight, Beaman said.

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