JetBlue flight 191 from New York to Las Vegas was diverted to Amarillo, Texas on Tuesday because of a possible “medical situation with the captain.” But that doesn’t begin to describe what happened.
Reports say that shortly before 11am the pilot started acting strange. After being locked out of the cockpit by the co-pilot, he began running up and down the aisle and trying to storm the cockpit screaming, “Say your prayers! Say your prayers!”
Early accounts were unclear as to whether the man was actually a pilot, or just a lunatic. However the airline has come forward and recognized that it was the pilot.
A federal government official tells CBS the captain became incoherent, which caused the co-pilot to become concerned. According to the official, the co-pilot convinced the captain to leave the cockpit and then locked him out. When the captain started pounding on the cockpit door, he was subdued by an off-duty NYPD officer and an off-duty pilot.
JetBlue says that the off-duty captain who was traveling on the flight entered the cockpit and took over the duties of the ill crewmember.
Laurie Dhue, a former Fox News anchor and passenger on the flight, called into “Studio B” with Shepherd Smith and described the scene. According to her, the pilot was originally calmly escorted to the back of the plane. Eventually, however, he started running up and down the aisle screaming and then began pounding on the cockpit door.
According to Dhue, at one point he was yelling, “we got to get this plane down” and other passengers overheard him saying stuff about “Afghanistan” and “Israel.” She could not confirm if he said anything about Islam, but did say a passenger next to her recalled overhearing him saying something about a bomb.
Later, Shepherd Smith interviewed one of the men who helped subdue the pilot. The man gave a detailed account, including describing how he had to “choke” the pilot:
Gabriel Schonzeit, who was seated in the third row, said the pilot went into the bathroom and then started shouting, “Iraq, al-Qaeda, terrorism, we’re all going down.’ It seemed like he went crazy.”
The incoherent individual is described as being around 6′3″ with short, cropped hair. He was transported to Northwest Texas Hospital, and TSA spokesman Luis Casanova is quoted as saying that it “seems to be more of a medical issue than a security issue at this point.” The airline is not releasing his name or medical history.
One passenger remarked, “He picked the wrong plane. Huge guys just tackled him. The response was Olympics kind of stuff.”
JetBlue is coordinating a new plane to take the passengers to their final destination, Las Vegas. They originally departed from New York’s JFK airport.
Purported video of the event’s aftermath has surfaced on YouTube:
This is a breaking story. Updates will be added.