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SALT LAKE CITY — A 45-year-old woman aboard a Delta flight from London to Salt Lake City toppled a drink cart when she raced up and down the aisle and threw coffee in the air before jumping on the back of an air marshal, federal prosecutors say.
Sarah Maria Beach was charged Friday with misdemeanor assault of a federal air marshal following the Thursday ordeal.
She was handcuffed during the flight after she "jumped on the back of" the air marshal and "placed her hands on his head, neck, and jawline," charging documents say.
Beach was seated next to the air marshal after she "caused a disruption on the flight" by throwing coffee on other passengers, overturning a drink cart and running up and down the center aisle of the plane "repeatedly," the charges allege.
A passenger who was sitting across the aisle, Martin Nicholls of London, watched as "she literally sprinted down the end. And I mean she's only a small woman, really," he said.
He said she then raced the other direction, toward the back of the plane.
At that moment, "everyone's becoming very concerned because, I thought, we're at 30-odd thousand feet over the sea. What if she tried to open the door? she couldn't get to the back door but then she ran again."
As she bolted, Nicholls said he became so concerned that "I literally just stood up and grabbed her and rooted her to the spot," before flight attendants came by and she was escorted to the back of the plane.
He said he'd had a conversation with her on the flight.
"She was saying she's got a lot going on in her life," he said, and she appeared to get more and more agitated, shouting out at times.
"At one point she stood up and she was drinking coffee and she literally just threw the whole thing — not the cup, the coffee — and it hit the ceiling, it was going down the walls. It went over probably about six or seven passengers, some, almost, to the other side of the plane," Nicholls recalled.
The air marshal had identified himself to Beach when she was put next to him, according to court documents. Beach was "initially calm with" the man and an additional air marshal, and was peaceful when escorted to the plane's lavatory on two occasions. The alleged assault occurred "after (she) used the bathroom for a third time," the charges say.
Beach, an American citizen who lives in London, could face up to a year in federal prison if convicted, said U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch.
She was arraigned at an initial court appearance Friday in U.S. District Court and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation. No hearing had been scheduled as of Friday.
Contributing: Ashley Kewish