US flight from Washington, DC diverted after man reportedly tries to open door

Monday, January 25, 2010

A United Airlines Airbus A320-200, similar to the one mentioned in the story

A US flight en-route from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas, Nevada was diverted to Denver, Colorado yesterday, after one of the passengers tried to open an exterior exit while in flight, according to reports from officials.

The authorities said that United Airlines Flight 223, an Airbus A320-200, with 134 people aboard, landed in Denver and the passenger in question was detained. The BBC reports that he had been under the influence of alcohol.

"There was a disturbance onboard, an unruly passenger. Due to that disturbance, pilots decided to divert to Denver," said the local police in a statement.

The man, whose identity isn't yet known, approached one of the emergency exits on the aircraft, holding a paper bag. When asked by flight attendants what was in the bag, he reportedly responded, "You'll see". The man was then subdued by passengers, pinned to the floor, then strapped into a seat. The man has been taken for a medical evaluation, according to the Associated Press.

In a telephone interview, one of the passengers aboard the plane, Sergei Sandou, commented that he had seen the man with a small bag and approached the front of the plane. Sandou described the man as being nearly six feet tall (1.9 metres) and weighing about 250 pounds. He knocked on the cockpit door, then advanced towards an exit. Then, Sandou said, one of the passengers from the business-class shoved the man, and, with the help of other passengers, twisted his arms behind his back and strapped him into a seat with a seat belt.

"He never talked too much. He kind of said like, 'Let my arms go. Let my arms go.' [...] I said, 'I'm sorry, you need to stay until we land.'," Sandou recalled., as quoted by the Washington Post.

Another passenger, Barry Eynon, described the man as being "really out of it."

"We don't hear that often," said Jeff Green spokesman with the Denver airport, remarking that opening an exit door while in flight is "pretty much impossible."

A spokesman for the Denver police, Detective John White, commented that no formal charges were filed against the man.