A Southwest Airlines flight was diverted from its California destination to an emergency landing in Nebraska after one of its passengers attempted to force open the door in mid-air.
Facing federal charges, the man who forced the flight to be diverted was eventually subdued by flight attendants and other passengers after it landed just a few hours after it had taken off. The diverted plane took off from Chicago and was bound for Sacramento.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Joshua Carl Lee Suggs has been charged with several federal crimes including interfering with flight crew members after he refused to listen to a flight attendant and tried to open a door on Southwest Airlines Flight 722.
722, carrying more than 135 souls on board eventually had to be diverted to Omaha, Nebraska after pilots alerted ground control there was an “unruly passenger on board.” According to the official criminal complaint, Suggs simply walked to the back of the plane and started tugging on the aircraft’s door.
Monique Lawler, a passenger on the diverted airplane later talked to KABC-TV about the incident saying: “Some gentleman just decided that he wanted us to visit the Lord today and… open up the back hatch while we were all already up in the air.”
Numerous people, including one off-duty law enforcement officer on the trip rushed to stop Suggs after a flight attendant yelled for him to get away from the door. It was shortly after they were able to subdue the man that pilots asked to be diverted from their original path and landed at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield.
This is hardly the first time that an airline has had to divert a flight after one of its passengers has become violent or unruly. There are literally dozens of reports of this kind of thing going on every year. In February of this year, an All Nippon Airways Boeing 777 had to be diverted from its scheduled flight from New York to Alaska after a man went “berserk,” in mid-air.
In this case, Suggs was reported to have had dilated pupils and incoherent speech, leading many to speculate that he was having a bad reaction to some kind of illegal drugs. Had the man been able to get the plane’s door open, it wouldn’t have pretty for any of the five crew members or the 134 passengers.
The story of flight 722 does have a happy ending. After Suggs was removed in Omaha, the diverted flight got back on track and landed safely in Sacramento just two hours behind schedule.