Oskar Garcia? and Betsy Blaney
LAS VEGAS: A JetBlue captain who ranted about Iraq and Afghanistan and claimed that a bomb was on a Las Vegas-bound flight was locked out of the cockpit, tackled and restrained by passengers Tuesday, passengers said.
The captain of Flight 191 from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport had a “medical situation” and the co-pilot diverted the plane to land in Amarillo, Texas, around 10 a.m., JetBlue Airways said in a statement.
Josh Redick, a passenger sitting near the middle of the plane, said the pilot “stormed out” of the cockpit.
Tony Antolino, a 40-year-old executive for a security firm, said the captain walked to the back of the plane, that he seemed disoriented and agitated, then began yelling about an unspecified threat linked to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They’re going to take us down, they’re taking us down, they’re going to take us down. Say the Lord’s Prayer, say the Lord’s Prayer,” the captain screamed, according to Antolino.
“He was irate,” Redick said. “He was spouting off about Afghanistan and souls and al-Qaida.”
Gabriel Schonzeit, who was sitting in the third row, said the captain said there could be a bomb on board the flight.
“He started screaming about al-Qaida and possibly a bomb on the plane and Iraq and Iran and about how we were all going down,” Schonzeit told the Amarillo Globe-News.
The captain had been exhibiting “erratic behavior,” so the pilot locked him out of the cockpit, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
Antolino, who said he sat in the 10th row, said he and three others tackled the captain as he ran for the cockpit door, pinned him and held him down while the plane landed at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.
“That’s how we landed,” he said. “There were four of us on top of him. ... Everybody else kind of took a seat and that’s how we landed.”
Shane Helton, 39, of Quinlan, Okla., said he saw emergency and security personnel coming on and off the plane as it sat on the tarmac at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.
“They pulled one guy out on a stretcher and put him in an ambulance,” said Helton, who went to the airport with his fiancée to see one of her sons off as he joined the Navy.
JetBlue said the ill captain was taken to a medical facility in Amarillo.