A passenger on a Frontier Airlines flight who allegedly boarded the plane with two box cutters and was seen acting disorderly was taken into custody after making an emergency landing Friday night, according to the Airline and Transportation Security Administration.
Several passengers on board, including military veterans and a former law enforcement officer, helped crew members subdue the man after landing, witnesses said.
The flight from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to Tampa was diverted to Atlanta “after a passenger was observed to have a box cutter on board,” Frontier said.
ABC News spoke with Larry Cumberbatch, a Navy veteran who was a passenger on Frontier Airlines Flight 1761.
Cumberbatch said two other people, another veteran and a former law enforcement officer, worked with the flight crew to restrain the armed passenger and protect other passengers.
About 45 minutes into the flight, Cumberbatch said flight attendants approached three people and asked for help with a passenger in the back of the plane.
At least two passengers said they saw some kind of knife from a man who noticed several people acting erratically.
Cumberbatch voluntarily switched seats with the woman who was next to the armed passenger.
“They were worried about a young lady and asked if someone would be willing to switch seats or maybe go back and sit with her. She might be safe. The situation was, the lady said, that the gentleman next to her had some kind of knife or gun and he, actually showed it to him,” Cumberbatch said.
He then walked to the back of the plane and saw the armed passenger boxing in the middle and aisle seat and the window seat.
The errant passenger seemed paranoid as if someone was following him but not pointing a knife. Cumberbatch finally made it to the bathroom as he stood in the hallway.
“His feet were on the aisle seat. He was just leaning back, relaxed. I came over and said, ‘I’m going to sit here now.’ You know, this is my seat, and he said, ‘Well, no. That’s the young lady’s seat.’ And I said, ‘Not anymore,'” Cumberbatch said. “I just stood there. And I think that made him… I don’t know if he thought I was an air marshal or somebody. He got up and went to the back, maybe to the bathroom. And I just kept standing. I didn’t want somebody to have a knife behind me because I wasn’t there. “.
When the armed passenger came out of the bathroom, he encountered Cumberbatch in the hallway, which he pretended to be.
“He basically stood by the bathroom door and looked at me, you know, fidgeting with his clothes. Maybe he stepped back a little bit, but not really because there wasn’t a confined space. He was trying to gauge me to figure me out. Who I was and I was just playing carefree,” Cumberbatch explained. “So I said I’m going to physically let him know I’m there without looking at him, because that’s going to make someone hostile, hostile. I just want to de-escalate so we can de-escalate.”
The armed passenger eventually sat down in the back of the plane to land. The passengers left the plane, leaving the crew, two veterans, a former law enforcement officer and an armed passenger. A former law enforcement officer attempted to escort an armed passenger down the aisle while two veterans stood by him. Law enforcement was nearby, but not immediately visible.
“You can see the energy building up in the uncertainty, the uncertainty of what’s going to happen with this young man,” Cumberbatch said.
The armed passenger reportedly acted erratically, prompting the former law enforcement officer to tackle him. Later, law enforcement agencies arrested him.
Cumberbatch cited his military training and experience growing up in New York and riding the subway in the 90s, where he saw box cutters as the weapon of choice as a preparation for the situation.
“Going through boot camp and the Navy changed my entire perspective on how to serve other people and have a selfless mindset,” he said. “But I also knew how to de-escalate situations for different scenarios in my life. But to be honest, it didn’t really bother me that he had a gun. I don’t know. I can’t. explain it, but I just knew I could handle it. If I didn’t… I knew I would , I could. There was no doubt about it.”
Cumberbatch said he wasn’t surprised the other two veterans stepped up.
“I think it came from understanding what happened in our past, a history with 911, etc. And I think that was at the forefront of my mind when I came back because I was literally in the Navy that year. I was in the Navy when 911 happened. “And when I heard that, the first thing I said was, ‘It’s not going to happen again.’
Cumberbatch noted that there were children on the plane, especially in the back of the plane where the armed passenger was sitting.
Cumberbatch said the flight crew acted responsibly and competently throughout the situation.
“I mean, they were very brave. They were talking to him, trying to assess, did he really have a gun?” Cumberbatch told ABC. “(They were mentally trying to see what was going on with him.”
“The plane landed safely in Atlanta and the passenger in question was taken into custody by Atlanta law enforcement,” De La Cruz said.
There are no details on the circumstances that led to the discovery of the box cutter, and the person in custody has not been identified.
According to the information of the airline, there were no injuries among passengers and crew members.
All passengers were disembarked and provided overnight hotel accommodation in Atlanta. A new flight is scheduled for Saturday morning to take passengers from Atlanta to Tampa for their final destination.
Frontier Airlines sent the following statement to ABC:
“Friday evening, Frontier Airlines Flight 1761 from Tampa to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport diverted to Atlanta after a passenger on board was observed to be carrying a box cutter. No passengers or crew were injured. The aircraft was reported safe. pictured landed in Atlanta and the passenger in question was taken into custody by Atlanta law enforcement. All passengers have been disembarked and are being accommodated in a hotel in Atlanta for the night. A new flight is scheduled for (Saturday) morning. From Atlanta to take the passengers to their final destination Tampa.
CNN Wire contributed to this report.
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