Letters to the Editor

Subject: Flight Attendant Assault
From: Mike Sheffer msheffer@jpc.com

With increasing regularity, we are hearing reports of passenger violence toward flight crewmembers as they attempt to perform their federally mandated duties.

My wife has been a Flight Attendant for over eleven years. On December 16th, 1997, she and our family suffered the effects of "In-flight Violence" aboard US Airways Flight 38. As the Boeing 757, with over 150 aboard was on approach to Baltimore, a passenger began roaming the aisles of the jet, "preaching to and blessing" the passengers. My wife was able to calm the man and get him to sit down. But, he rose again and headed for the cockpit, claiming he had to "bless" the pilots, and deliver a message to them.

As the cabin crew attempted to prevent his entry into the cockpit, he became agitated and then violent, pushing one flight attendant to the floor. My wife was beaten, punched, kicked and then thrown across three rows of seats against the bulkhead, by a man more than twice her size and weight! Can you imagine the sheer terror she experienced as she was attacked?

What would have happened if this two hundred-pound plus, former football running back, had indeed forced his way through the cockpit door? It could have well been a horror story of tragic proportions.

Fortunately, a U.S. Marine MP, two off duty US Airways pilots and a brave passenger heroically came to the rescue. Together, along with my wife, they were able to restrain him by tying his wrists, elbows, ankles, knees, and legs. Two pilots then had to sit on him until the plane landed.

The man later admitted he had been under the influence of the hallucinogenic drug, LSD.

HE WAS THEN RELEASED THE SAME NIGHT!

His father took custody and quickly ushered him into a drug abuse halfway house. To the best of my knowledge, he remains there to this day, awaiting Federal Charges.

Meanwhile, my wife was removed from the aircraft on a backboard, taken by ambulance to a Baltimore hospital and then left alone, injured and frightened, for over four hours. Finally, after a quick examination by the doctor on duty, she was released and taken to a Baltimore hotel for a sleepless night.

The next morning, after two hours of FBI interviews, she was flown back home to Charlotte, where I met her. Another examination, by doctors at Presbyterian Hospital, revealed she had suffered, back, neck, shoulder and internal injuries; bruising, swelling, cuts and spinal trauma with a large blood clot.

Clearly, there is something wrong with a system that allows a criminal, still under the influence of illicit drugs, to be released from custody while his victims suffer the consequences of his actions!

It is time for Congress to enact stiffer penalties for such criminals. It MUST be made clear that anyone who becomes abusive, unruly, or violent aboard a commercial aircraft will not be tolerated. They MUST be held responsible for their actions.

February, 1998

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