Man Subdued on Hawaii Flight after Threatening Sleeping Baby

By Dan Nakaso and William Cole
Advertiser Staff Writers

Passengers and crew aboard a Northwest Airlines flight last night from Los Angeles to Honolulu overpowered an unruly passenger who threatened a sleeping baby girl, said passengers and officials yesterday.

"I was scared in the plane," said the baby's 30-year-old mother, who would only give her first name of Sheila. "With everything that's happened since Sept. 11, I was hoping that everything was changed. I'm relieved. But I don't know how I'll feel tomorrow. It was a big stress."

About 10 minutes before Flight 91 was preparing to touch down last night in Honolulu, the unidentified 37-year-old Mexican national burst toward the cockpit of the plane and was subdued by four people in the business-class section, according to passengers and the parents of the baby girl, who live in Montreal, Canada.

The man was put in plastic "tough cuff" restraints aboard the plane and detained for the remainder of the flight, said Scott Ishikawa, state Department of Transportation spokesman.

"He was threatening to harm somebody else's infant," Ishikawa said. "It took several people to subdue him. We don't have a reason why he allegedly wanted to harm the infant."

FBI agents had the man in custody last night, Ishikawa said. The FBI did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

The Boeing 757-300 left Los Angeles at 3:21 p.m. with 177 passengers and a crew of two pilots and five flight attendants.

"During the course of the flight, one of the passengers was exhibiting behavior of concern," Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhock said. "Attendants and one passenger helped manage the situation."

The baby's 30-year-old father, who would only give his first name of Jean-Francois, said the couple and their sleeping girl were seated in Row 16 against the cabin's bulkhead when the man moved from the back of the airplane and sat down in a seat on the other side of the aisle, one row in front of them.

"He was behaving very strangely," Jean-Francois said. "Stand up. Sit down. He was not listening to the orders of the crew.

"He looked mentally affected. His mind was not all there. ... He had a (cell phone) cord in his hand. We started to be afraid of that because it could be a weapon. ... He said to the flight attendant that he wanted to kill the baby."

For the next two hours, the man kept staring at the baby. The parents said the tension in the cabin lasted for the rest of the trip across the ocean.

Flight attendants several times asked the man to move toward the back of the plane, but he refused, the parents said. At one point, Sheila, who was sitting in the aisle with the baby in her arms, switched seats with her husband.

"Personally I'm upset that they left this guy with a weapon in his hand for so long," Jean-Francois said. "We're quite upset with how they handled it. If he really wanted to do something, he could have done a lot of things."

About 10 minutes before landing, the flight attendants suggested that the parents instead move toward the back of the plane and they began to comply, they said.

It was then that the man headed toward the front of the plane, Jean-Francois said.

But two men seated in business class intervened and jumped on the man, Jean-Francois said. Two others quickly joined in.

"They got him on the floor and tied his hands with plastic," Jean-Francois said.

One of the men, who declined to give his name, said, "He started to head to the cockpit and three of us took him down."

He said the unruly passenger had been holding what looked like a telephone cord and was wielding it like a weapon.

With the man restrained, the pilot then came onto the plane's intercom system about five minutes before landing.

"He said, 'We're very sorry for what happened' and apologized for the trouble," Jean-Francois said.

The plane landed in Honolulu at 6:46 p.m., 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

Last night, the parents stood with their blond baby inside Honolulu Airport as she slept in her blue stroller. She wore a pink shirt covered with a purple sweater.

After speaking with FBI agents, they tried to begin their first Hawai'i vacation, starting with two days on the Big Island.

"It's our first time," Sheila said.

Then she added sarcastically, "Welcome."

"We are very tired," she said. "It's been a long day."

The incident occurred two days after a federal air marshal shot and killed a 44-year-old U.S. citizen in Miami. Witnesses said the man claimed to have a bomb in his backpack and had bolted frantically from an American Airlines jetliner boarding for takeoff.

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