A video captured the moment passengers and flight crew members had to hold down an unruly passenger who they say tried to open a plane door mid-air on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Reagan National Airport outside Washington, D.C.
Passengers and law enforcement sources told NBC4 Washington they had to make an emergency landing because the passenger was interfering with the flight crew. Juan Remberto Rivas, 50, put plastic silverware in his sleeve and held it like a shank, according to an affidavit. He tried to break a bottle of champagne on a counter and kicked and shoved the service cart into one of the flight attendants.
Rivas allegedly grabbed the handle of an exit door and pulled hard on it, the affidavit said. A flight attendant struck him on the head with a coffee pot and several passengers helped the flight attendants restrain him and hold him down.
Carlos Rojas, seen in the video standing up with a black shirt on, helped subdue the man. Rojas said he appeared aggravated and disoriented.
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“It wasn't too scary only because I didn’t really know what was happening until it was happening," Rojas said.
The flight from LAX was meant to arrive at Reagan Airport, but had to be diverted to Kansas City. Once there, everyone had to get off the plane. The arrival board showed a more than five-hour delay.
According to American Airlines, police were requested to meet the flight on arrival. Rojas and several others spoke to authorities, including the FBI, once they were on the ground.
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“As soon as we landed they came on the plane. They escorted the gentleman that was causing the disturbance off the plane and proceeded to conduct interviews and ask people questions," Rojas said.
Rivas was treated for a cut on his head, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Missouri.
Flight attendants told authorities they did not serve alcohol to Rivas on the flight.
“We’re grateful to our crew members, who are consistently dedicated to the safety and care of our customers and who handled the circumstances with the utmost skill and professionalism,” the airline said in a statement.
Passengers said they’re also thankful for people like Rojas, who were willing to take action to help keep them safe during a very scary flight.
The FBI said in a statement that the unruly passenger was taken into custody. He is charged with assaulting and intimidating a flight attendant and is being held in custody pending a detention hearing, which has not been scheduled.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants said on Twitter that the passenger's attempt to open the door was "another dangerous, life-threatening incident" on a plane.
"This violent behavior must stop," the union said.
The incident comes comes amid a surge in unruly airline passengers over the past year or so — including some who become violent. Earlier this month, Delta Air Lines told the U.S. Department of Justice that any person convicted of a disruption on board a flight should be added to the national "no fly" list.
According to the FAA, there have been 394 unruly passenger reports so far in 2022. Last year, a total of 5,981 unruly passengers were reported.