A Massachusetts man aboard a cross-country United Airlines flight on Sunday tried to open the emergency door while the flight was in the air and then tried to stab a flight attendant in the neck, prosecutors said.
Francisco Severo Torres, 33, was charged with one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and using a dangerous weapon, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts announced Monday.
The incident took place on flight from Los Angeles to Boston Sunday, just under an hour before the plane was set to land at Boston Logan International Airport.
Here is what we know about the incident:
‘A threat to the aircraft’
About 45 minutes before the flight was scheduled to land, the flight crew was notified of an alarm in the cockpit that a starboard side door was disarmed, prosecutors said.
A flight attendant inspected the door and found the door’s locking handle was moved out of the fully locked position, according to court records. The emergency slide arming level was also moved to the “disarmed” position, prosecutors said.
It was then reported to the captain and flight crew.
A flight attendant told the captain he saw Torres near the door, and believed Torres tampered with the door, authorities said. Torres was confronted about the door, and asked if there were cameras on the plane that saw him do it, according to court documents.
The flight attendant notified the captain they believed Torres posed “a threat to the aircraft” and the captain “needed to land the aircraft as soon as possible.”
Flight attendant struck
After Torres was initially confronted, prosecutors say he got out of his seat and approached the side door where two flight attendants were located. One of the attendants saw Torres mouthing something before he attempted to stab one of them, prosecutors said.
“Torres then allegedly thrust towards one of the flight attendants in a stabbing motion with a broken metal spoon, hitting the flight attendant on the neck area three times,” prosecutors said.
Passengers tackled Torres and the flight crew assisted in restraining him before the flight landed, when he was taken into custody. The flight attendant said Torres hit his shirt collar and tie three times, according to the complaint.
Suspect said he was trying to kill flight attendant, knew people would die if door was open
Investigators gave the following account in Torres’ criminal complaint:
Torres admitted going into a bathroom and breaking the spoon in half to make a weapon.
When he left the bathroom, Torres attempted to disarm and open the door but was unsuccessful. He had an idea to open the emergency exit door and jump out of the plane.
“Torres admitted to knowing that if he opened the door many people would die,” the complaint read.
After he was confronted by the flight attendants, Torres he tried to stab one of the flight attendance in self-defense.
“Torres stated that he believed the flight attendant was trying to kill him, so he was trying to kill the flight attendant first,” according to the complaint.
What did United, Association of Flight Attendants say about the incident?
In a statement to USA TODAY, United thanked the “quick action” of the flight crew and passengers for restraining a customer that became a “security concern.”
United said the flight landed safely and no serious injuries were reported. Data from FlightAware shows the flight landed in Boston early, just before 4:15 p.m. ET.
“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,” United said.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said in a statement she was relieved no life-threatening injuries were sustained, adding the incident adds to the “urgent need” to create a national banned disruptive passenger list.
“Aviation’s first responders are charged with the safety of everyone onboard,” Nelson said. “When incidents like this happen, it not only risks the safety of the crew involved, it takes away from flight attendants’ ability to respond to medical, safety, or security emergencies.” Nelson said. “It puts everyone at risk and there’s zero tolerance for that.”
Torres could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of his charges, prosecutors said, or up to five years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. He made his initial appearance in court Monday and was detained. He’s expected to return to court Thursday.
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