No federal charges filed against unruly passenger who forced flight to land at RDU in ongoing investigation :: WRAL.com

— The FBI has not filed charges against a passenger who became violent on a Wednesday night flight, forcing attendants to block the cockpit in order to protect the crew and passengers.

Frontier flight 1335, which had left LaGuardia Airport in New York and was on its way to Orlando International Airport, was diverted to Raleigh-Durham International Airport around 8:15 pm because of a “disruptive passenger,” a spokesperson for RDU Airport said.

†[The man] was really loud and obnoxious from the beginning. The passenger that was sitting behind him was a lady and her autistic son … so I guess he kept getting poked and touched from behind and he started freaking out and claiming that, these people keep putting hands on me, they’re trying to stick me with needles, they’re trying to collect my DNA. I don’t know what they want to do with it — maybe for money or maybe to sell it. He’s like, I don’t care if it’s a lady and her kid, I’ll smack them both. I don’t care who it is. I’ll put my hands on anybody on this plane,” said Savannah Figueroa, who was on the flight.

The man was cursing, screaming and threatening everyone on the plane, Figueroa said. Flight attendants approached him, asked him what the problem was and if he could lower his voice, Figueroa said the man got angrier.

As of Thursday morning, an FBI spokesperson said no federal charges had been filed. The incident is still under investigation.

“There was like waves of it where he would calm down and just stop talking completely and then he would just start going again,” Figueroa said.

Video taken on the flight showed flight attendants blocked the cockpit doors and passengers helped restrain a man on the flight. Figueroa said multiple men, including a passenger who was a police officer, took off their belts to try to restrain the man with them.

“I guess they were nervous that he was going to try to rush the pilot and take the whole plane down,” Figueroa said.

The man being restrained could be heard screaming as passengers used what appeared to be zip ties.

“My ACL is torn — you can’t do this,” the man yelled in the video.

Figueroa said things started to get violent after the man tried to break a window.

“That’s when they jumped on him and tried to restrain him,” Figueroa said. “There was at least five or six other men that stood up … they started taking their belts off and trying to restrain him.”

Figueroa said the flight remained in the air for an hour after the man began yelling and acting disruptive.

“I looked at my phone and I was like, I wish I could text people right now a final message if it were to come down to it, but they don’t have WiFi on that plane so I was basically a sitting duck,” she said.

Figueroa said the man was threatening to hurt people on the plane, including a baby.

“He was threatening the kids, the woman and everyone on the plane — saying he was going to kill us all,” Figueroa

During the chaotic moments on the flight, a woman was heard giving passengers specific directions on how to get the man under control.

“He needs to sit in a seat, so don’t tie his feet like that,” the woman said.

When the flight landed at RDU, the woman said flight attendants made an announcement that police were going to get on the flight.

The Frontier flight resumed its trip to Orlando and finally landed there at 11:17 pm

An RDU spokesperson said airport police and Wake County EMS responded to the flight.

New data from the Federal Aviation Administration reveals hundreds of passengers have already interrupted flights during the first six weeks of 2022, most of them over COVID-19 and mask requirements.

The FAA began collecting data on unruly passengers a year into the pandemic, when incidents on flights became more frequent.

Since Jan. 1, 2022, the FAA has recorded 394 reported incidents on flights nationwide, 255 of those were related to face mask mandates. Investigations were launched into 93 of the incidents, and 40 required the intervention of law enforcement officers.

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