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JetBlue passengers recount fears during captain’s breakdown
Question of the Day
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Passengers aboard an early morning flight bound from New York to Las Vegas first noticed something wrong when the plane’s top pilot came out of the cockpit, didn’t close the door and tried to force his way into an occupied restroom.
The JetBlue captain’s co-workers tried to calm him as he became more jittery, coaxing him to the back of the plane while making sure — above all — that he didn’t get back near the plane’s controls.
Then, he sprinted up the cabin’s aisle — ranting about a bomb, screaming, “They’re going to take us down!” and urging confused passengers to pray.
“Nobody knew what to do because he is the captain of the plane,” said Don Davis, the owner of a Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based wireless broadband manufacturer who was traveling to “Sin City” for a security industry conference.
“You’re not just going to jump up and attack the captain,” Mr. Davis said.
But four men did tackle the pilot and used seat-belt extenders and zip-tie handcuffs to restrain and pin him to the floor for more than 20 minutes while the first officer and an off-duty pilot who was aboard landed the plane in Amarillo, Texas.
There is nothing in the pilot’s record to indicate he would be a risk on a flight, Mr. Barger said Wednesday.
“Clearly, he had an emotional or mental type of breakdown,” said Tony Antolino, a security executive who sat in the 10th row of the plane and tackled the pilot when he tried to re-enter the cockpit.
“He became almost delusional,” Mr. Antolino said after arriving in Las Vegas from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport some six hours after schedule.
Josh Redick, who was sitting near the middle of the plane, said the captain seemed “irate” and was “spouting off about Afghanistan and souls and al Qaeda.”
The airline described the incident as a “medical situation” involving the captain of JetBlue Airways Flight 191 from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Airline officials said he was taken to a hospital.
“It was like a movie — it really was,” he said. “It just didn’t look real.”
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