A flight bound for Sacramento was forced to make an emergency landing in Omaha after witnesses say a passenger tried to open the door midair.
Passengers said they were forced to restrain the man, identified by KCRA-TV as Joshua Carl Lee Suggs, who was escorted off the plane by airport authorities after Sunday's incident.
A total of 135 passengers and five crew members were aboard the Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago. Some were fainting and nauseated and even crying, witnesses told KCRA in Sacramento.
"The captain in command of Flight 722 diverted to Omaha enroute from Chicago midway to Sacramento Sunday afternoon," Southwest officials said in a statement. "They set down in Nebraska to have an unruly passenger removed."
Witnesses said it started with yelling coming from the rear of the plane.
“All of a sudden, we heard a woman scream way in the back. We saw the stewardess rush to the back and it was all sorts of commotion,” passenger Andre Lescari told the TV station.
“Fear immediately sets in," said Natalie Lee, another passenger. "We had people nauseated, practically fainting, crying.”
Passengers told KCRA the man wanted to jump out of the plane. Hearing the commotion, a group of male passengers immediately headed toward the back of the plane.
“You got this bad feeling that wasn’t going right, especially when a bunch of big guys got up and immediately jumped into the aisle and ran to the back of the plane,” said passenger Lori Depalma.
Dr. Scott Porter said he initially thought it was a medical emergency but later realized it was more of a threat. He helped subdue the suspect.
“He was going to do bad things to the plane, so it was pretty scary,” Porter told the station. “We basically tackled -- I don’t want to say ‘gentleman,’ but the guy who was back there and then pinned him down. I got the sense he was probably on some sort of drugs or that he was psychotic.”
Airport police escorted the man off the plane after it landed in Nebraska and passengers clapped from inside the plane, and watched through the window as he left.
“This is the one time where I might sound a little sexist, but I’m glad there were some burly men on the plane. What they did was great,” Lee said.
Southwest said the remaining passengers traveled safely to Sacramento with the same crew, arriving about two hours behind schedule.
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