A Massachusetts man has been arrested after attempting to open an airplane door midair, and then trying to stab a flight attendant with a broken spoon.
Francisco Severo Torres, 33, was charged with one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon.
The captain of the flight radioed air traffic control to tell them Torres had been detained by passengers but was ‘not going quietly’, and had six people restraining him as the plane came down to land.
Torres had boarded United Airlines Flight 2609 on Sunday in Los Angeles, bound for Boston.
With 45 minutes of the journey remaining, a member of the cabin crew reported that an emergency exit had been tampered with.
A flight attendant noticed that the door’s locking handle had been moved out of the fully locked position about a quarter of the way toward the unlocked position.
The emergency slide arming lever had also been moved to the disarmed position, authorities said.
The crew secured the door and slide.
Another flight attendant had noticed that Torres was seen near the door and believed he had tampered with it. The crew told the captain that he was a threat and the plane should be landed as soon as possible.
At that point, prosecutors allege, Torres got out of his seat, approached two flight attendants standing in the aisle, and used the spoon to make stabbing motions, hitting a flight attendant three times in the neck area.
He was restrained by other passengers and crew.
The captain told air traffic control that they had had an incident.
‘The person is detained, attempted opening of an external emergency door,’ he said, in audio obtained by CBS Boston.
‘That person was subdued and is being detained right now – however, he’s not going quietly: he’s just laying there with six able bodies on top of him.’
United praised the quick-thinking of the crew and passengers.
‘Thanks to the quick action of our crew and customers, one customer was restrained after becoming a security concern on a flight from Los Angeles to Boston,’ United said in a statement.
‘The flight landed safely and was met by law enforcement. No serious injuries were reported.’
The airline said that Torres was immediately banned from flying on their flights.
‘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.’
One passenger told investigators that Torres had asked where on the safety card it showed where the door handle was located during the flight attendants’ pre-takeoff safety briefing.
Another said Torres was seen pacing the plane before attacking the attendant.
The charge of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon provides for a sentence of up to life in prison, up to five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.