You’ve probably seen people tossing coins in a fountain for good luck, but throwing change into the engine of an airplane you’re boarding seems a little counterproductive.
But that’s exactly what an elderly woman did as she “prayed for safety” for her China Southern Airlines flight from Shanghai to Guangzhou, China, on Tuesday.
Media outlets including the South China Morning Post report the woman, believed to be 80, was throwing coins at the engine for “blessings” from the middle of the boarding staircase.
She was traveling with her husband, daughter and son-in-law, who were all taken away for questioning by officers. The woman, said to be a Buddhist with no criminal record, was placed “under investigation,” according to the Xinhua news agency.
The woman threw nine coins in all, and only one of them made it into the engine, prompting an evacuation of 150 passengers for several hours, and members of the ground crew scouring the interior of the engine.
“In order to make sure the flight is safe, China Southern maintenance has conducted a full examination of the plane’s engine,” China Southern Airlines said in a statement.
Police later announced just a single coin with the value of about 1.7 yuan was discovered inside the engine, with the others on the ground.
“After an investigation the involved passenger, surnamed Qiu, said she threw the coins to pray for safety. According to Qiu’s neighbor, Qiu believes in Buddhism,” police said.
“The captain was quoted as saying the metal, if sucked up by the engine, could have caused serious damage, including failure,” reported the South China Morning Post.
News of the woman’s actions flew across the planet, with one commenter on the social-media website Weibo noting: “Grandma, this is not a wish fountain with turtles.”
The airline subsequently urged fliers to obey civil aviation rules and avoid behavior that could put the safety of passengers at risk.