An alleged hijacker, muttering that he wanted to “stop this plane”, was subdued with the help of the manager of a well-known Christian rock band on Delta flight 386, traveling from Los Angeles to Nashville on June 4.
The unidentified attacker was reportedly attempting to break through the locked door of the airplane’s cockpit when he began wrestling with a Delta flight attendant, Christopher Williams.
Wes Campbell, who discovered and manages the Newsboys, a rock band founded in Australia with a platinum record and eight gold records, was sitting in first class when his wife, Tracy, stirred him.
“My wife nudged me and said, ‘Quick! The flight attendant is fighting with a passenger! Quick! Help him!’” he said. “So I jumped out into the aisle.”
“They had already hit the deck. The [male] flight attendant was a little bit underneath this passenger.”
Campbell identified the flight attendant as Chris Williams. “He mentioned to me afterward that it was his sixth day on the job,” he said.
“He [the attacker] was trying to get up, with all his might, Campbell said. “I had my knee on his back. And then a couple of other people got up to help.”
Campbell used his own belt to temporarily restrain the man.
A second flight attendant arrived from the rear of the plane, carrying a pair of yellow plastic handcuffs.
“My God, it was difficult to get those on,” Campbell said. “And he was kicking with his feet. … I pulled his shoes off, and then we put these zip-ties, these plastic strips, on him.”
Campbell and other passengers dragged the hog-tied assailant down the aisle to the back of the aircraft. The man continued muttering as he was carried away, Campbell said: “I heard him say, ‘The plane has to go down.’”
Law enforcement officers were waiting to take custody of the man after the pilot diverted the flight to Albuquerque, N.M. Campbell told Zenger that the struggle unfolded less than 90 minutes into the flight and “it was a hard landing” in Albuquerque.
Wes and Tracy Campbell are Nashville-based music executives. Mrs. Campbell is the daughter of a U.S. Navy aviator who flew missions from aircraft carriers, she said. She told Zenger that the attacker “was after the cockpit, no question.”
“We didn’t really know what was going on. I just thought, “Holy crap! There’s two guys fighting,” she said. “I mean, this is not 9/11. It’s been a long time. But it’s all happening in nanoseconds. And this is the flight attendant who just served me my beverage!”
“This guy was a huge dude,” she said. “He was hefty. And this darling flight attendant — he was really pushing him back. He was exhausted.”
Mr. Campbell said he never got a look at the hijacker’s face, but described him as six-foot-four, athletic, and wearing “shoes with no socks.”
And the man had “a lot of black hair — body hair, on his back. I was pulling at it.”
Campbell later spoke with a group of young women who gathered in a bistro during the unscheduled stop in Albuquerque. Several told him the would-be hijacker had “hit on” all of them before the flight took off.
Campbell said the women told him the man boarded the plane alone and without any carry-on luggage, and that he was talking to himself in a loud voice before he got up to approach the cockpit.
Delta said in a statement that the passenger “was not successful” in his attempt. “The plane landed safely, and the passenger was removed by police and the FBI. He is in custody now,” the statement said.
Delta said 162 passengers and six crew members were on board. The FBI in Albuquerque tweeted that there was “no threat to the public.”
After approximately five hours on the ground, passengers boarded a replacement aircraft and continued to Nashville. That flight landed just before 2:00 a.m. CDT.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a May 24 press release that this year it has received about 2,500 reports of “unruly behavior by passengers” aboard commercial flights. The agency said 1,900 of those cases involved passengers refusing to wear face masks.
(Edited by Richard Miniter, Claire Swift and Amrita Das)
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