Video shot by a passenger mid-flight on a Boston-bound plane captured a threatening outburst and attack that would result in the arrest of a man from Leominster, Massachusetts on Sunday.
The 33-year-old is facing serious allegations, as federal authorities accuse him of trying to open an emergency exit door and trying to stab a flight attendant in the neck onboard the recent United Airlines flight to Boston.
The suspect is expected back in court on Thursday, after being held Monday following an initial appearance in federal court.
“He was visibly upset," passenger Lisa Olsen recounted to NBC10 Boston. She captured video of the passenger shouting threatening language. "He was saying that he was Balthazar, that his father was Dracula, he was going to kill all the men on the plane. There was going to be a blood bath, he was asking where Homeland Security was.”
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Scary Situation in the Sky
The United States Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts put out a news release on Monday detailing the ordeal that allegedly happened tens of thousands of feet in the sky, during a flight from Los Angeles to Boston on Sunday.
According to authorities, the flight crew got an alarm in the cockpit about 45 minutes before landing that a side door had been disarmed. A flight attendant checked the door out, and found that the door's locking handle had been moved out of place, and that the emergency slide arming level had been moved to the "disarmed" position. The flight attendant reported the door situation to the captain and other crew members, and also secured the door, authorities said.
Another flight attendant reportedly noticed the suspect near the door, and believed that he had tampered with it.
An attendant confronted him about the door, and he asked if cameras showed him tampering with it, authorities said. The flight attendant then told the captain that they should land the plane as soon as possible, because the man was believed to be a threat to the aircraft, according to federal law enforcement.
Not long after, the suspect allegedly got out of his seat, and thrust toward one of the flight attendants "in a stabbing motion with a broken metal spoon, hitting the flight attendant on the neck area three time," the U.S. Attorney's Office said. The man was then tackled by passengers, and was restrained with the help of the flight crews, the release said. He was arrested when the plane landed in Boston.
During interviews following the ordeal, authorities said that passengers remembered the suspect asking "where on the safety card it showed where the door handle was located during the flight attendants’ safety briefing prior to takeoff and that he was seen pacing in a galley before attacking the flight attendant."
"I am relieved that no one was hurt or injured in all three events, however the escalation of incidents and 'close calls' at Logan airport is very troublesome," Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said in a statement Tuesday. "The FAA is responsible for flight operations and I have already requested a briefing with their officials to get an update on their investigations into how these events occurred and proposed solutions to ensure they do not continue."
Passengers Recount Chaos on the Plane
Cellphone video obtained by NBC10 Boston shows the moments the incident unfolded, with the passenger yelling onboard the plane, and then allegedly going after one of the flight attendants.
Lisa Olsen, who recorded the video, is a Rhode Island native and was traveling with her husband and daughter.
"So many men on the plane just got up and went right after him," she said.
The suspect was apparently held down with zip ties, until the plane ran out.
"The airline didn’t have any more zip ties and people were giving their belts, they were asking if there were any police on the flight, any military on the flight," Olsen said.
United Airlines Releases Statement
No one on board Flight 2609 was seriously hurt, a United Airlines representative told NBC10 Boston in a statement, saying the customer "was restrained after becoming a security concern" by the plane's crew and other customers.
"We have zero tolerance for any type of violence on our flights, and this customer will be banned from flying on United pending an investigation. We are cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation," their statement said.
Suspect to Face Judge Thursday
The suspect has been charged with one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. If convicted, he could face a sentence of up to life in prison, up to five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
He is due back in court for a hearing on Thursday.