Southwest Flight Diverted to Omaha To Remove Unruly Passenger

Monday, 14 Apr 2014 01:14 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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An unruly passenger forced a Southwest Airlines pilot to divert the plane from its path from Chicago to Sacramento and land in Omaha, Neb., on Sunday afternoon.

Flight 722, which departed from Chicago, landed at Omaha's Eppley Airfield, according to The Chicago Tribune.

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A Southwest spokesman said that the plane landed "to have an unruly passenger removed." 

The passenger reportedly opened the back hatch of the plane. Passenger Monique Lawler described what she saw to KABC-TV.

"Some gentleman just decided that he wanted us to visit the Lord today, and decided to open up the back hatch of Southwest Airlines flight while we were already up in the air," Lawler said, adding that at one point the man went to bathroom and came out soaking wet.

"He got up and went to the rear of the plane and tried to open up the hatch," Lawler said. "One of the airline stewardess just started screaming as well as passengers screaming help."

One large male passenger intervened to stop the unruly passenger.

"He kind of subdued him, held him down, and he tried a couple of times to open up the back hatch," Lawler said.

Dr. Scott Porter told WMAQ-TV that other passengers joined in subduing the passenger as well.

"I ran to the back of the plane," Porter said. "At that point in time I was joined by about two other people. We basically tackled the — I don't want to say gentleman — but the guy who was back there and pinned him down and restrained him."

No one was injured in the incident.

An Omaha Airport Authority spokesman told WMAQ-TV that the FBI is investigating the incident. Jan Sharp, the chief of the General Crimes Unit for the United States Attorney's Office in Nebraska, said that there had been to criminal complaint filed in the case.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that in February, 5.77 percent of flights were either cancelled or diverted for various reasons. 

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