A California man who tried to open a rear aircraft door on a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Sacramento was subdued by passengers and flight attendants before the flight was diverted to Nebraska, according to federal charges against him.
Joshua Carl Lee Suggs, of Sacramento, Calif., has been charged with the federal crime of 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 on Sunday, according to the complaint against him. The plane, carrying 135 passengers and five crew members, had to divert to Omaha, Neb., "to have an unruly passenger removed," according to Southwest's media office.
The flight left Midway just before 10:50 a.m. Sunday, and about an hour after takeoff, after flight attendants had finished serving beverages, Suggs went up to a flight attendant, who told him the pilot had turned on the fasten seatbelt signs, according to an affidavit by an FBI agent filed as part of the complaint. Suggs told the flight attendant he wanted to look out the window, and after he was told a second time he should sit down, he pushed past the flight attendant and tried to open the rear door of the plane.
A second flight attendant stepped between Suggs and the door and called for help, and several passengers got up from their seats and helped subdue him, according to the complaint.
The second flight attendant got restraints from a compartment, and the passengers put them on Suggs.
A doctor who was one of the passengers who helped restrain Suggs and another passenger later told investigators that Suggs' pupils appeared dilated. The doctor said Suggs appeared to be "altered mentally," and another passenger told investigators Suggs spoke clearly but incoherently.
The pilot contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and declared an emergency before diverting the plane to Eppley Airfield in Omaha. At the airport, Omaha Airport Authority police took Suggs into custody.
Flight 722 arrived in Sacramento about two hours late, with one fewer passenger, according to Southwest.
Suggs is expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Omaha on Wednesday.
Tribune reporter Liam Ford contributed