Airplane Passengers Tackle Man Who Allegedly Tried To Stab Flight Attendant, Open Emergency Exit

Photo by United Airlines/Getty Images

Emily Cope Contributor
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A Massachusetts man was charged after allegedly attempting to open an emergency exit door and stabbing a flight attendant while aboard a United Airlines flight, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts said in a press release.

Francisco Severo Torres, 33, was arrested and charged on March 5 with one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon, according to a press release statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.

About 45 minutes before the flight from Los Angeles to Boston was scheduled to land, flight attendants received an alarm in the cockpit that an emergency exit door on the starboard side between the first class and coach sections of the plane was unlocked, according to the press release. A flight attendant found the door’s lock had been moved out of the fully locked position and that the door’s emergency sliding handle had been put in the “disarmed” position.

After relocking the door, a fellow flight attendant claimed he noticed the suspect near the door and thought he had tampered with it, prosecutors said. When confronted by the flight attendant about whether he had unlocked the door, Torres allegedly asked “if there were cameras showing that he had done so,” according to the press release. Flight attendants then notified the pilot that they believed Torres posed a threat and that he needed to land the plane as soon as possible, according to the statement.

Torres allegedly later told police he believed a flight attendant was going to kill him, so he went to the bathroom to break a metal spoon to use as a weapon to kill him first, according to court records cited by ABC News. Torres then approached the starboard side of the plane, where two flight attendants were standing, and allegedly stabbed one flight attendant three times in the neck with the broken metal spoon.

Other passengers quickly tackled Torres and he was restrained by flight crew members until his immediate arrest upon landing in Boston, the press release noted.

A passenger told police that before takeoff, Torres had allegedly asked where on the safety card it showed the door handle of the emergency exit, according to the press release.

In a statement, United Airlines thanked the “quick action” of its crew and other passengers, and added that “the flight landed safely and was met by law enforcement,” ABC News reported. (RELATED: United Airlines Shares Fall After Passenger Dragged Off Plane)

The Association of Flight Attendants is urging Congress to pass legislation creating a banned disruptive passenger list following the incident. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, said in a statement to ABC News, “We call on Congress to pass the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act.”

“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 added, the outlet reported.

The flight attendant reported to police he was not hurt, according to court records reviewed by ABC News. Torres initially appeared in court on Monday and is set to reappear in court on Thursday. The charges carry sentences of up to life in prison, up to five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000, according to the statement.