San Francisco, July 8 (IANS) The US man who forced a Delta Airlines flight to return to the airport was charged with assaulting flight attendants, the media reported on Saturday.
Appearing on Friday in the US District Court in Seattle, Joseph Daniel Hudek from Florida, who was travelling on Delta Flight 129 from Seattle to Beijing, faced one count of interference with flight crew members for allegedly assaulting flight attendants.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a penalty of $250,000 for his actions on Thursday.
According to a federal complaint, the 23-year-old man used the lavatory twice one hour into the flight and lurched toward an exit door after leaving the lavatory the second time, grabbing the handle and attempting to open the door.
At the time, the plane was over the North Pacific Ocean, northwest of Vancouver Island, Canada. The suspect was initially seated in the first-class cabin.
A flight attendant asked for assistance from other passengers and notified the cockpit of the situation, and the pilot decided to divert the flight back to Seattle.
As two attendants struggled with Hudek, the suspect punched one of them twice in the face and hit a passenger who was trying to assist the attendant in the head with a wine bottle, and then again tried to open the exit door.
A passenger who tried to pull Hudek away from the door was punched multiple times.
Eventually, the man was subdued by flight attendants and passengers and later taken into police custody after the plane returned to Seattle’s Tacoma International Airport.
Delta Flight 129 was back in the air Friday morning, heading to Beijing.
Dustin Jones, who was seated directly behind the curtains separating first class from the rest of the plane, said a scuffle was going on: “One of the flight attendants ran back and said there was a Code 3. There was a serious fight up front.”
Once back at the airport, being handcuffed and zip-tied to a wheelchair as he was rolled out of the terminal, Hudek appeared to remain combative.
“He started yelling for help,” Jones said. “And so he turned the wheelchair over in the middle of the airport, screaming for people to help him, just being belligerent.”