An airline passenger is facing charges after he allegedly tried to open an emergency door mid-flight before attempting to stab an attendant, according to reports.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts reported the incident today. It took place on Sunday, March 5, aboard a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Boston.
Per ABC News, about 45 minutes before the plane was set to land, its crew was alerted of a disarmed door. An attendant then “found that the door’s locking handle had been moved out of the fully locked position.”
Upon further investigation, the attendant learned that 33-year-old Francisco Severo Torres had “the idea to open the emergency exit door and jump out of the plane.”
When confronted, the man allegedly asked “if there were cameras showing that he had done so.” He then attempted to stab the attendant in the neck with a broken metal spoon.
Federal prosecutors said several passengers managed to tackle Torres before he could injure anyone. Once they did, crew members helped restrain him for the remainder of the flight.
According to court documents, Torres admitted he took the spoon into the bathroom before the attack and intentionally broke it in order “to make a weapon.” He claimed he did so because he believed the attendant was trying to kill him.
Airline Passengers Were Able to Stop the Attacker Before Anyone was Injured
Simik Ghookasian, one of the passengers who stopped the attack, told the publication that he originally believed the suspect and the attendant were having a harmless argument. But it quickly escalated to yelling and screaming.
Another passenger began filming the dispute, which further agitated the Torress. Torress then charged the person with the camera.
Ghookasian and about five other people jumped into action. And they quickly tackled Torres before grabbing his weapon and removing a cigarette lighter from his pocket. Ghookasian asked the crew for zip ties and then used them to bind Torres’s hands and feet.
The group held the man down for the final 20 minutes of the flight.
Officials Are Calling on Congress to Take Action
President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, Sara Nelson later released a statement. In it, she said she will call on Congress to help stop further such incidents.
“When incidents like this happen, it not only risks the safety of the crew involved, it takes away from Flight Attendants’ ability to respond to medical, safety, or security emergencies,” she explained. “This is another example of the urgent need for a national banned disruptive passenger list. We call on Congress to pass the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Francisco Severo Torres with one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon.
The defendant made his first court appearance on Monday and was detained. He’s set for a second appearance on Thursday.