Man accused of trying to stab flight attendant and open plane door midflight

Federal charges have been filed against a man accused of attacking a flight attendant and trying to open a plane’s emergency exit door on a weekend flight to Boston.

Francisco Severo Torres, 33, was on board a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles when a flight attendant believed he had tried to tamper with the emergency exit door, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for Massachusetts. 

About 45 minutes before landing at Boston Logan International Airport, crew members were alerted that the “starboard side door” had been disarmed, the federal prosecutor’s office said. A flight attendant who inspected the door noticed the handle had been moved toward the unlocked position.

The attendant, who was not identified, secured the handle and went to notify fellow crew members. Another attendant noted that Torres had been by the door earlier and suspected he might have tampered with it, federal officials said.

“A flight attendant then confronted Torres about tampering with the door, to which he allegedly responded by asking if there were cameras showing that he had done so,” the prosecutor’s office said.

The captain was notified that Torres might pose a threat to the flight and asked to land as soon as possible. Torres later approached the same door as two flight attendants stood near it, according to the prosecutor’s office.

“Torres then allegedly thrust towards one of the flight attendants in a stabbing motion with a broken metal spoon, hitting the flight attendant on the neck area three times,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Passengers tackled Torres and helped the crew restrain him until the plane landed, when he was taken into custody.

The airline said no injuries were reported.

Passengers interviewed after the flight landed told authorities that Torres had asked someone about where the door handle was on the plane’s safety card, the prosecutor’s office said.

Video recorded from inside the plane and shared with NBC News shows a man yelling that if he were shot by authorities he would not die. He later enters the aisl, says he is taking over the plane and appears to attack a flight attendant near the front before others subdue him.

Torres has been charged with a count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon. Federal court records weren’t immediately available for Torres on Monday, and it’s unclear whether he has retained an attorney.

Torres is scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

United Airlines praised the quick actions of its crew and passengers in restraining Torres.

“We have zero tolerance for any type of violence on our flights, and this customer will be banned from flying on United pending an investigation,” the airline said. “We are cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation.”

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