Toronto Coun. Michael Thompson says he and other passengers subdued and restrained a belligerent man on a flight home from Jamaica earlier this week to calm what they felt had become "a dangerous situation."
Thompson and his mother were on their way back to Toronto from the Caribbean on Monday after a Mother's Day trip together when, about an hour into their Air Canada flight, a man became "rather loud and boisterous" in a conversation with flight attendants, the councillor said.
Air crew members were trying to calm the man, but "he was not very pleasant in his language," Thompson said.
After the man began wielding a coffee pot as if to strike people and then threatened to "take down the plane," Thompson and other passengers asked the flight crew if it was time to do something about the passenger.
When they got the all-clear from the captain, Thompson said he, flight attendants and a few other passengers restrained the man with plastic ties and belted him into a seat until the pilot made an emergency landing at the airport in Orlando.
"At the end of the day it really came down to what we the individuals who were involved and obviously the flight crew felt was a dangerous situation," Thompson told CBC Toronto on Wednesday.
He and other passengers began to fear for their own safety, he said.
"And so part of it was self-preservation."
Man removed from flight by FBI
The man, identified as Brandon Michael Courneyea, was removed from the plane by the FBI on a charge of assault or intimidation of a flight crew member and interfering with their job duties. The allegations against the man have not been proven in court.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada would not speak to the details of Courneyea's case, but confirmed that consular officials are in contact with U.S. authorities about a Canadian citizen that had been detained.
His wife, Amanda Courneyea, told The Canadian Press that her husband had gone on a solo vacation without her and their five children to fulfill a life-long dream. But she had booked him on an earlier flight home because he told her that local residents had threatened his life.
"That is not my husband at all," she told CP in a telephone interview. "There's a lot more to what brought that on, because my husband is the kindest, most loving man you'll ever meet. And anybody that knows him will tell you the same thing."
'We did the right thing'
According to Thompson, the man moved to a seat near him after the flight attendants' first attempts to calm him down. The man sat behind another man and started calling him names and "using colourful language."
Thompson volunteered to sit with the man and try to keep him calm as flight attendants began their beverage service. After a time, the man said he had to stretch his legs, but then began ordering Thompson to get away from him.
Thompson said he wouldn't leave. That's when the man grabbed a silver coffee container in one hand and then said he was "going to take this plane down."
"I was just trying to talk to him in a very calm voice, but he didn't respond to that and kept saying he was going to take the plane down and he was going to open the door," Thompson said. "And I said, 'no you're not.'"
By this point some passengers were crying, he said. That's when Thompson approached the head of the flight crew and asked about the procedure for subduing a passenger.
When the flight attendant said the captain gave the okay, she got some plastic ties and Thompson and a handful of fellow passengers got the man into a seat and restrained him.
No punches were thrown, but "it took some time," Thompson said.
Asked if he would do the same thing again, Thompson said he hopes he never has to.
"It was surreal then, and to a large extent just thinking back about it now, I think all of us … we did the right thing," Thompson said. "I certainly felt my safety was in jeopardy, I felt the safety of the plane was actually in jeopardy."