Last night, a JetBlue flight headed from Boston to Fort Lauderdale had to land in Jacksonville because an unruly passenger was disrupting the flight.
Witnesses on the flight say a man who claimed to be a U.S. serviceman screamed and tried to light a cigarette. Passengers and crew locked him in the bathroom until the plane landed, and authorities in Jacksonville took the man into custody.
Passenger Vanessa Cassell gave New Times this account:
"While waiting for the plane [that was delayed], he was standing next to me crying to others and leaving phone messages for family members, saying that he loves them and will see them next Christmas. I overheard him staying that he did a tour in Iraq and came home because his buddy died, and now he was heading back to Afghanistan." Some people, including Cassell, shook his hand and thanked him for his service to the country.
"He said he was going to wait for everyone to get on the plane so he can make calls to his dad and baby mama," Cassell says. "Finally, he got on the plane three rows in front of me and said to guys sitting in the row, 'Guys, this is going to be a rough ride for you because I am going to be emotional the entire ride.'"
Cassell watched a movie and says the flight experienced "very, very bad turbulence." She "realized a stewardess was yelling at [the passenger] to sit down. Then she was screaming, saying, 'You messed with the wrong flight crew!'
"He said, 'I am gonna piss on the floor,' and she said, 'No, you are not.' Guys started getting up to help the situation, and then a guy got up and said, 'Please sit down; we got it.' He had something that looked like brass knuckles in his hands. They got him up and locked him in bathroom till he calmed down.They were manning the door. Someone said he drank too much and was trying to light a cigarette."
Cassell was frightened "when was he was screaming, 'I fought for this country. I fought for your freedom. I fought for this fucking bitch, and this is how she treats me!' It was so scary, because who knows what his intentions were. He had been saying goodbye to everyone in his family.
"If he was a real soldier fighting for us, he would not have put us all in danger like that."
Another passenger, Bill Morley, told Jacksonville news outlet WOKV a similar story: that the passenger yelled and tried to light a cigarette.
When they landed, authorities came on the plane and took the man away in cuffs. Passengers disembarked and reboarded a few hours later. They landed safely in Fort Lauderdale around 1 a.m., much later than their scheduled arrival of 7:35 p.m., Cassell says.
Jacksonville police referred New Times to the airport police, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.