Southwest Passenger Tries to Exit Plane Through Emergency Door

Southwest Passenger Tries to Exit Plane Through Emergency Door

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John Hollenhorst reportingThere was a bizarre incident on board an airliner at the Salt Lake International Airport. Passengers subdued a man and held him for police, after he tried to exit the aircraft, through an emergency door.

Passengers told police the man was acting very strangely during the flight. After it landed, he actually opened the emergency exit and climbed part way out.

It was just about 24 hours ago that the Southwest Airlines plane from Phoenix landed in heavy fog here in Salt Lake.

The Airport staff and law enforcement agencies have refused to talk about the incident, but we spoke late today with the suspect's mother.

Her comments, and a written police report, paint and interesting picture of what was undoubtedly a frightening experience at the Salt Lake International Airport.

After landing in heavy fog last night, some flights were delayed getting to the terminal gates.

On one airliner, Southwest flight 1251 from Phoenix, a passenger for some reason suddenly opened an emergency exit and tried to jump out.

A fellow passenger told police "His upper body was completely out and (the passenger) grabbed his right arm and pulled him in..." and subdued him along with another Southwest passenger.

He calmed down quickly. The police report says he apologized and said he was sorry.

The police report says one passenger noticed abnormal behavior by the man from the time he boarded the flight.

He ... "spoke of Jesus," the police report says. "He slapped his body. He broke out into laughter. And he assumed position as if he were practicing martial arts."

The passenger also observed the man playing with the emergency door during the flight.

There's no indication in the police report that passengers told the flight crew about his strange in-flight behavior.

He was taken into custody and given a misdemeanor citation for disorderly conduct. But he was released to the custody of his mother after a doctor concluded he was not a threat.

A Southwest Airlines spokeswoman says the emergency door cannot be opened in flight.

She didn't quarrel with the decision to release the man from custody. But when we asked if Southwest would let him board another flight, she said she didn't know.

By the way, passengers are encouraged to report unusual behavior. But an Airport Security official said he doesn't know if the man's in-flight behavior was strange enough to warrant such a report.

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