Delta Passengers Restrain Dangerous Passenger Threatening to 'Take the Plane Down'

Delta Passengers Restrain Man Making Threatening Comments
A Delta Air Lines plane sits at the gate in LaGuardia Airport on the day before Thanksgiving, on November 21, 2012, in New York City. On Thursday, two men restrained a passenger who was making threatening comments on a Delta flight from Maine to Georgia. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Two passengers on a Delta flight on Thursday restrained an irate man who had begun making threatening statements until law enforcement arrived, local news outlets reported on Friday.

On Thursday morning, Delta flight 1249 took off from Portland, Maine, and was headed to Atlanta when a commotion at the back of the plane gained the attention of James Tennell, a former corrections officer.

Tennell told WAGA that he heard a lot of screaming coming from the back of the plane and one of the passengers was punching the overhead seat light. Other passengers told him that the man expressed a desire to "take the plane down," and wanted off the plane.

"It was kind of scary. 9/11 immediately went into my head," passenger Ashley Decker, who was flying with Tennell, shared with WAGA. She added that the man was trying to punch nearby passengers and the plane's windows.

Decker said Tennell was seated in the window seat of their row at the time and he jumped over both her and the gentleman sitting next to her to get to the aisle and rushed to the back of the plane.

When Tennell reached the back of the plane, the passenger had locked himself in the bathroom and when he came out, he tried to punch Tennell. A second man, who worked for the Coast Guard, came to his aid. The men pushed the irate passenger back into the bathroom and were able to restrain him by placing him in handcuffs, which the airline supplied them after they identified themselves as law enforcement.

Tennell told WAGA that the man tried to bite him a few times. The two men got the passenger back into his seat and tied the handcuffs to the seatbelt. They remained by the man's side until the plane landed and law enforcement was able to board and take over.

Delta Passengers restrain man making threatening comments on flight
A passenger waves from a New York-bound Delta Airlines Boeing 767-300ER aircraft as it taxies before take-off from Berlin's Tegel airport on May, 3, 2005. On Thursday, two men restrained a passenger who was punching the plane windows and threatening to "take the plane down." JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

The former corrections officer explained that the plane erupted in applause on landing and encouraged people in similar situations to step up and take control, as well. "There was a lot of lives at stake, where people could have been potentially hurt," he told WAGA.

In a statement to Newsweek Friday, Delta said it appreciated "the assistance from those customers who aided the crew and applauds the professionalism of our flight attendants for their efforts in deescalating the situation."

While it's uncommon for passengers to have to restrain others on the flight, this isn't the first time passengers have intervened when someone else on the flight poses a possible safety risk. In May, a naked man began running towards the cockpit and then reversed course and headed towards the back of the plane during an Alaskan Airlines flight. When the man came towards passenger Nick Steffl, he confronted him, according to the New York Post.

"He said, 'Hey man, what's going on?'" Steffl told the New York Post. "And my adrenaline is just pumping. I'm in flight response after a guy's running toward the cockpit after a post-9/11 flight. I was almost raging at that point."

Another passenger and flight attendants were able to restrain the passenger until the plane landed safely at its intended destination of Anchorage, Alaska. The man was escorted off by law enforcement and taken to a local hospital.