TWA Flight 355

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TWA Flight 355
Hijacking summary
Date September 10, 1976
Summary Hijacking
Site United States and Canada
Passengers 41 (including 5 hijackers)
Fatalities 0 (1 fatality in a separate attack - see below)
Survivors All
Aircraft type Boeing 727
Operator Trans World Airlines
Flight origin LaGuardia Airport, New York
1st stopover Mirabel International Airport, Canada
2nd stopover Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador
Last stopover Paris, France
Destination O'Hare International Airport, Chicago

TWA Flight 355 was a domestic Trans World Airlines flight which was hijacked on September 10, 1976 by five "Fighters for Free Croatia",[1] a group seeking Croatian independence from Yugoslavia.

The incident occurred on the same day as the Zagreb mid-air collision, which to date remains Croatia's worst air disaster.


The Boeing 727 plane took off from New York's LaGuardia Airport and was headed to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. The hijackers were Slobodan Vlašić, Zvonko Bušić, his wife Julienne Bušić,[2] Petar Matanić, and Frane Pešut. The hijackers claimed to have a bomb as they seized control of the plane in the 95th minute of its flight; the alleged bomb on board was actually a pressure cooker.[3]

The group redirected the plane to Montreal's Mirabel International Airport where they refueled and told officials that they had planted a bomb in a locker at Grand Central Station and gave them instructions on finding it. They demanded that an appeal to the American people concerning Croatia's independence be printed in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the International Herald Tribune. The plane was then flown to Gander, Newfoundland (now Newfoundland and Labrador), where 35 of its passengers were released. From there the plane was accompanied by a larger TWA plane which guided it to Reykjavík, Iceland. The hijackers' initial European destination was London, but the British government refused them permission to land.[4]

During the hijacking the device at Grand Central Station was found and taken to Rodman's Neck Firing Range where police attempted to dismantle it rather than detonate it. After setting a cutting instrument on the two wires attached to the device, the officers retreated from the pit for several minutes. They then returned to the pit to continue dismantling the device when it exploded and killed an officer, Brian Murray.

The plane landed in Paris where the hijackers surrendered after direct talks with U.S. ambassador Kenneth Rush, and their supposedly explosive devices were revealed to be fakes.[4][5] As the police took Julienne Bušić away, the plane's pilot gave her a hug in gratitude for her calming of the passengers during the hijacking.[6]


Frane Pešut served 12 years in prison.[7] He was deported to Croatia in 2007.[7] Petar Matanić and Slobodan Vlašić were released along with Pešut in 1988.[8] Julienne Bušić was released in 1989.[9]

By the 1990s and early 2000s, the last remaining hijacker in prison was Zvonko Bušić. On several occasions after Croatian independence, Croatian president Franjo Tudjman appealed to American president Bill Clinton for Bušić's release or transfer to Croatia.[10] In 2003, the Croatian Parliament passed a resolution that Bušić should be transferred to Croatia, which it submitted to the Council of Europe.[11] The liberal Croatian Helsinki Committee also took up the cause of Bušić's release.[9]

On June 7, 2008 Bušić was granted parole after 32 years of imprisonment.[12] Bušić was paroled and deported to Croatia where he was greeted by approximately 500 people at Zagreb's Pleso airport.[13] Among those in the crowd were Dražen Budiša, Anto Kovačević, and Marko Perković, as well as all four of the other hijackers.[14]

Julienne Bušić wrote a book named Lovers and Madmen about the hijacking and her love for the head of operation.[15]

Zvonko Bušic committed suicide on 1 September 2013 by gunshot at his home in Rovanjska near Zadar; he was discovered by his wife. He was 67 years old.[16]


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