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Passenger says Francisco Severo Torres was 'out of control' on United flight to Boston

Passenger describes attack on board United flight to Boston
Passenger describes attack on board United flight to Boston 02:40

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. - The passenger who recorded the video of a Leominster man accused of attacking a flight attendant on a flight to Boston said he was "so out of control."

Lisa Olsen of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, was on United Airlines flight 2609 from Los Angeles to Logan Airport Sunday when 33-year-old Francisco Severo Torres allegedly tried to stab a flight attendant and open an emergency exit door during the flight.

Francisco Torres. Massachusetts State Police

Olsen told CNN Tuesday she was sitting with her husband and daughter two rows in front of Torres on the six-hour trip. She said the first five hours were "uneventful."

An alarm sounded in the cockpit 45 minutes before landing, signaling that the side door between first class and coach had been disarmed. Investigators said that was Torres trying to open the door.

"About 30 minutes before we were landing, I heard, you know, a commotion, he was getting louder," Olsen said. "He just started rambling about, you know, his father's Dracula, the Nazis, just a lot of rambling."

She said passengers tried to calm Torres down but that just made him more agitated.

"A woman tried to approach him and say that, you know, he was scaring the passengers, he didn't care, he was getting louder and then a very large like built guy started working, walking from the back of the plane up to him," Olsen said. "When he saw that he kind of, you know, jumped out of his seat and got in the aisle and, you know, started to, you know, like fight him or attempt to kind of pretend to fight him."

Francisco Severo Torres shortly before he was subdued on a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Boston, March 5, 2023. Lisa Olsen via CBS News

Olsen recorded video showing Torres ranting from his seat before he moved out into the aisle saying something about "taking over the plane."

Investigators said he had a sharp metal object - a spoon with the bowl end broken off - in one of his hands. Olsen called it a "spoon shank." Torres is then seen on the video running towards the front of the plane. He allegedly tried to stab a flight attendant in the neck three times.

"I think the flight attendant was ok, I don't think it was a deep puncture wound," Olsen said.

"The United Crew was amazing," she told CNN. "They blocked the first class entrance which led to the cockpit."

Lisa Olsen. CNN

"The flight attendants were there. Many men from the plane jumped up, followed him, tackled him to the ground and there were probably about 4-to-6 of them that sat on top of him to restrain him," she said.

The crew used zip ties to tie up Torres's feet and arms, but Olsen said he kept screaming and then somehow escaped from the zip ties.

"He was so out of control. I don't know if they didn't get them on tight enough. I don't know exactly what happened, if he busted out of them or if he just wiggled out of them but he was still very combative for the beginning part so it may have been that," she said.

Torres was restrained again and the men took turns holding him down.

"Once we knew that there were only one additional set of zip ties left, people were sending up their belts to help restrain him," Olsen said.

She said Torres finally quieted down for the final 5-to-10 minutes of the flight, which landed safely at Logan.

"The Massachusetts State Police came on board, cuffed him, took him off the plane. The EMTs came in and attended to the flight attendant and then they came back and questioned some of the passengers," Olsen said.

Francisco Severo Torres shortly before he was subdued on a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Boston, March 5, 2023. Lisa Olsen via CBS News

Torres is charged with one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon. He appeared in federal court Monday in Boston and is due back for a hearing on Thursday. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The Transportation Security Administration would not say if there was an air marshal on the flight.

"For security reasons, TSA will not confirm the deployment of Federal Air Marshals on flights. Federal Air Marshals are trained to address a wide array of risks to the aircraft, flight crew and passengers.," the agency said in a statement.

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