National News from ABC

Passenger allegedly tries to stab flight attendant, open emergency door

Oliver Helbig/Getty Images

(BOSTON) — A United Airlines passenger was arrested after he allegedly tried to open a plane emergency exit door and then allegedly tried to stab a flight attendant, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.


The incident took place during a Sunday flight from Los Angeles to Boston.

Francisco Severo Torres, 33, allegedly tried to stab a flight attendant in the neck with a broken metal spoon after he was confronted about tampering with the door, federal prosecutors said. Fellow passengers tackled him and the flight crew helped restrain him, prosecutors said.

Torres later told police he went into the bathroom to break the spoon “to make a weapon,” court records said. Torres also allegedly told investigators he believed a flight attendant was trying to kill him, so he tried to kill the flight attendant first, according to court records.

The incident began about 45 minutes before the flight landed, when the crew received an alarm about a disarmed door between the first class and coach sections, prosecutors said.

A “flight attendant found that the door’s locking handle had been moved out of the fully locked position … and that the emergency slide arming lever had been moved to the ‘disarmed’ position,” prosecutors said.

Torres allegedly tried to open the door unsuccessfully and had “the idea to open the emergency exit door and jump out of the plane,” according to court records.

After the door was relocked, a flight attendant told his colleagues that he saw Torres by the door and thought he tampered with it, prosecutors said.

A flight attendant then confronted Torres, who allegedly “responded by asking if there were cameras showing that he had done so,” prosecutors said.

Torres then allegedly attacked the flight attendant, according to prosecutors. The flight attendant told police he wasn’t hurt, according to court documents.

One of the passengers, Simik Ghookasian, told ABC News that when the suspect started to get loud, he thought it was a simple argument, but then he started yelling and screaming. When the suspect saw another passenger filming the incident, Ghookasian said, the suspect started screaming and running at the man filming.

A few “microseconds” later, Ghookasian said, a group of about five people, including himself, jumped on top of and tackled the suspect, pulling a broken spoon out of his hand and a cigarette lighter out of his pocket.

Ghookasian, who is a Red Cross volunteer, said he asked for zip ties so they could tie the suspect’s hands and feet, and said the group of passengers held the suspect down for the remainder of the flight, about 20 minutes.

He described the incident as something out of a movie. Ghookasian said he majored in homeland security and has had a lot of training he believes helped prepare him for such an incident.

United thanked the “quick action” of its crew and passengers, adding, “The flight landed safely and was met by law enforcement.”

Torres was charged with one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon, prosecutors said. Torres made an initial appearance in court Monday and was detained. He’s set to return to court on Thursday.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, said in a statement, “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.”

“This is another example of the urgent need for a national banned disruptive passenger list,” Nelson said. “We call on Congress to pass the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act.”

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky and Vera Drymon contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

On Air Now

  • Regular Programming

Now Playing On X101

Download The X101 App

×

Site Designed & Hosted by Eves Digital