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Passengers onboard an Alaska Airlines flight have spoken out after an off-duty pilot tried to crash their plane mid-flight.
Joseph Emerson, 44, was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder after he allegedly tried to cut off fuel to the engines during a flight from Seattle to San Francisco on Sunday – before being subdued by the flight crew.
The flight was forced to divert to Portland, Oregon after the captain and first officer intervened to keep the engines running.
Passengers who were on board the plane told ABC News that they were not immediately alerted to what Alaska Airlines called the “security threat”, until a flight attendant told them over the speaker that there was “an emergency situation and the plane needed to land immediately”.
Once the plane landed, police boarded the aircraft and arrested Mr Emerson, escorting him off the plane handcuffed.
Bailey Beck, one of the passengers on the plane, told SFGate he saw a man – later identified as Mr Emerson – walk “from the cockpit to the back of the plane by himself, where he was then handcuffed to a railing and didn’t make any disturbance from the rear.”
Aubrey Gavello, another passenger, told Laura Coates Live the suspect was calm and cooperative as he was escorted off the plane.
Mr Emerson’s alleged motive for the incident remains unclear, but passengers said a flight attendant told them he had suffered a mental breakdown.
“After we did land and the gentleman was escorted off, the flight attendant got back on the speaker and said, plain and simple, ‘He had a mental breakdown. We needed to get him off the plane immediately’,’ Aubrey Gavello told ABC.
Authorities confirmed that they do not believe the incident was an act of terrorism or ideologically-motivated violence, but questions still remain after Alaska Airlines said Mr Emerson, who has worked for the company since 2001, did not have a history of medical issues.