An addled tourist faces criminal charges for his outburst on a packed passenger plane.
When a flight attendant refused to let him disembark, he leaped up, ran toward an emergency exit and shouted as he forced it open.
The Thai Airways passenger, 40-year-old Wong Sai Heung of Vancouver, Canada, was escorted off the Airbus A320 by authorities at Chiang Mai International Airport around 9 p.m. local time Wednesday.
Passengers had already taken their seats, and the doors had been sealed. However, Heung ordered a flight attendant to let him off Thai Airways flight TG121 just as it was lining up on the runway, according to Nation Thailand.
He shouted “that someone was going to assault him” as he pushed the door behind the cockpit open, causing the emergency slide to unfurl and rendering the plane immobile in the middle of the tarmac.
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Heung could be seen escorted away in handcuffs in a video captured after the incident.
“I was very paranoid and had anxiety,” he said. “It was the thing I had last time on the trip to Vietnam, but it’s pretty much, the second big trip, but it was a big panic attack, I thought I was getting killed in that spot. I’m not doing well.”
Police told Nation Thailand that Heung was not under the influence when he was arrested. He was taken to Phu Ping Ratchaniwet Police Station for questioning after the incident, and remains in custody.
He faces charges for rendering an airplane to be in a condition likely to cause danger to a person and failing to comply with an order of an aircraft commander or crew member, according to the police station’s deputy superintendent, Colonel Nattawut Noisorn.
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“The suspect may face further charges for aviation offenses, which are currently being processed by the relevant organizations,” he added. “Additionally, if the 13 airlines affected by the incident decide to file a report, he could face additional charges.”
Heung’s outburst not only delayed the flight he was on, but prevented other arriving flights from landing. Departing planes were delayed on the ground while arriving planes were caught in a midair holding pattern.
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Other passengers aboard Thai Airways flight TG121 were checked into an area hotel after their flight was rescheduled. Originally, the hourlong flight was supposed to depart at 9:05 p.m. and arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok.
“A plane was about to take off, but someone panicked and tried to open the door,” passenger Watcharapon Pethsurp told Nation Thailand. “As far as I know, at 9:45 p.m., the plane was about to leave before there was a scream and then an announcement from a flight attendant saying that someone panicked and attempted to leave through the exit, causing it to slide open.”
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“The plane was unable to fly, and we had to wait for the mechanics to take it back to the pit stop,” Pethsurp said.
Thai Airways wrote in a statement that the flight was able to depart several hours later, just after midnight.