US Man Tried to Open Door on Beijing Flight, Sparking Brawl

By That's Beijing, July 9, 2017

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Terrifying details have emerged regarding the Beijing-bound Delta Airlines flight that was forced to return to Seattle last Thursday after a passenger attacked flight attendants.

According to the Seattle Times, the 23-year-old American attacker, Joseph D. Hudek IV from Tampa, Florida, tried to open the exit door on the Boeing 767, sparking a brawl with flight attendants and passengers who used bottles of wine and zip ties to attempt and subdue him.

Hudek had been sitting in first class on Delta Airlines Flight 129 on a dependent pass — commonly used for air travel by family members of employees. (FBI officials declined to comment on whether Hudek was related to a Delta employee). The 11.5 hour international flight was carrying 210 passengers and 11 crew members.

Delta flight
Delta Airlines Flight 129 from Seattle to Beijing was carrying 210 passengers and 11 crew members.

According to a federal complaint, Hudek ordered one beer before the flight's takeoff and showed no signs of intoxication. Around an hour into the flight, as the plane was cruising over Vancouver, he briefly ducked into the bathroom. He then came out to ask a flight attendant a question before going back to the lavatory for around two minutes. As he walked out, he lunged towards an emergency exit door and attempted to grab the handle to open it.

Two flight attendants tried to subdue him, but he reportedly shoved them away and moved the emergency release lever halfway up. A flight attendant later said that the door could have been opened had it been fully disarmed at that altitude. 

The flight attendants then called the cockpit to alert the other flight crew of the emergency. The pilots tipped off the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the incident before turning the plane back around to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

In the cabin, meanwhile, flight attendants turned to passengers to help subdue Hudek, who was becoming increasingly violent. After allegedly punching one of the flight attendants in the face twice, he hit a male passenger in the head with a bottle of red wine and proceeded to punch him several times. 

One passenger told a local TV news station that he "tried to choke him and he just threw me off like a rag doll."

As the fight escalated, another flight attendant grabbed two bottles of wine and hit Hudek with both. One of the one liter bottles shattered over his head. Hudek, unfazed, responded by asking, "Do you know who I am?"

US Man Tried to Open Door on Beijing Flight, Sparking Brawl
A view from inside the plane following the brawl.

Though a male passenger put him in a headlock, Hudek escaped. Several passengers from first class then came over to join the fight and attempt to restrain the unruly Hudek.

Eventually it worked, and Hudek was restrained with zip ties, though the criminal complaint notes that he "remained extremely combative, and multiple passengers were needed to restrain Hudek and keep him restrained until the plane landed safely."

After landing, he was heard screaming for help in the middle of the airport, according to one passenger interviewed by a local TV station.

A flight attendant and passenger were taken to a nearby hospital, where they were treated for severe injuries to the face.

After everything was cleared up, the flight finally took off again at midnight, roughly five hours after it was forced to land.

Appearing in a US district court with a scrape below his right eye, Hudek was charged on Friday with one count of interference with flight crew members. He's currently in federal custody, where he will remain until a hearing scheduled for next week. He faces a USD250,000 fine and 20 year prison sentence if convicted.

[Image via Seattle TimesWashington Post]

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