Passenger praised for subduing man who tried to stab United flight attendant | US news

A man who led the charge in subduing a fellow passenger who tried to stab an attendant on a flight from Los Angeles to Boston and attempted to open the aircraft’s emergency door has said he intervened after thinking of his wife – who was traveling with him – and his family.

“Honestly, I did it for [them], first and foremost,” Jeff Neil told the Boston television news station WCVB. Neil, who is from the relatively nearby community of Exeter, New Hampshire added that he hopes the man with an apparent mental illness whom federal authorities charged with the attack on the flight “gets the help that he needs”.

“Clearly, he’s dealing with some things there,” Neil remarked.

Neil was aboard United Airlines flight 2609 bound for Boston’s Logan international airport from LA on Sunday when authorities said the plane’s crew members noticed an alarm that went off because someone had tried to open one of the aircraft’s side doors about 45min from landing. A flight attendant then reported having seen 33-year-old Francisco Severo Torres try to open the door, which was impossible for him to do because of the plane’s cabin pressure at that altitude.

After members of the plane’s crew confronted Torres, he unleashed a tirade that strongly hinted at his reported history of prior mental health problems.

Cellphone video captured by passengers showed him describing himself as the son of the mythical vampire Dracula, detailing his wishes to be shot dead so he could come back to life and threatening to “kill every man on this plane”, among other remarks.

Neil told WCVB that he saw several people unsuccessfully try to calm Torres. Neil said he put his telephone and computer away and unbuckled his seatbelt when he heard Torres shout: “I’m taking over this plane.”

“You could just tell it wasn’t heading in a good direction,” said Neil, who added that his wife was flying in the seat next to him. “I don’t know what else you need to hear at that point.”

Torres subsequently pulled out a metal spoon that had been broken and fashioned into a weapon and began moving up the aisle, chasing after and repeatedly trying to stab a flight attendant in the neck, authorities alleged.

Neil at that point got up and stood at the forefront of a group of passengers who rushed Torres and tackled him. The group pinned him to the floor of the plane, but he did not immediately surrender, with Neil telling WCVB that Torres at one point tried to bite him.

But the attacker eventually realized that he could not break free from those detaining him, so he stopped struggling and other members of the flight crew then took over restraining him.

The airline did not report any injuries from the fracas. After landing, the flight crew turned Torres over to state and federal law enforcement officials, who arrested him.

Asked by WCVB whether he would consider himself a hero for his actions, Neil was reluctant to embrace the label.

“I just think it was [that] I was in the right place at the wrong time,” he said. “I guess at the end of the day, I think anyone would have stepped up. I just happened to be there.”

Torres appeared in federal court in Boston on Thursday on a felony charge of using a dangerous weapon to interfere with flight crew members. He could face the possibility of life imprisonment if he is convicted as charged.

During his hearing on Thursday, a judge ordered Torres to remain in custody as well as undergo a mental health evaluation, the Associated Press reported.

The AP noted that Torres, of Leominster, Massachusetts, has previously filed lawsuits which indicate he has spent time in mental health facilities. A local police chief told the AP that officers had previously encountered Torres over domestic issues involving his family as well as episodes centering on his mental health.

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