Jackass' Coronavirus Prank Forces Plane to Turn Around

By Barnaby Lofton, February 6, 2020

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We’re not sure what this man was thinking when he decided to stand up and announce mid-flight that he had just returned from China, inciting a coronavirus scare onboard WestJet flight 2702.

In truly poor taste, 28-year-old James Potok (aka ‘Potok Philippe’), disrupted 243 passengers onboard a flight from Toronto, Canada to Jamaica on Monday. Global News reported, “the flight crew followed all protocols for infectious disease onboard, forcing the plane to turn back from Jamaica to Toronto.”  Law enforcement and paramedics were waiting for the plane back in Toronto. 

Image via China Press

Global News followed up with Potok on the day after the incident, and he revealed that his actions were motivated by a desire to go viral. Potok began the interview by rationalizing his actions, stating he flies to Jamaica five times a year and several trips ago he “did something similar.” Potok also mentioned that he pulled out his phone and announced to passengers that Lil Wayne’s album had just dropped and said “nobody had a problem with that.”  

Potok went on to explain the current incident:

“It seemed to me like this was in poor taste, in retrospect. What I did, I stood up, I said, ‘Can I have everybody’s attention? I just came back from Hunan Province – and that was it. Well, I had my camera with me. I was looking to get a viral video. I was looking to get it up on all the social media platforms. I figured it would invoke some type of reaction, not on the plane. More people seeing on social media, going, ‘Wow, this kid’s got some balls,’ or, ‘This kid is crazy.’” 

He concluded that “any publicity is good publicity” and apologized for ruining the journeys for the passengers onboard. 

The prankster was arrested by regional police on Monday afternoon, charged with mischief and breach of recognizance and set to appear in court on March 9. After news broke of Potok’s identity, China Press reported that comments flooded his Instagram calling him a “clown” and to “say goodbye to your career.” 

For regular updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, click here.

[Cover image via Wikimedia Commons]

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