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Chicago-Bound Flight Diverted After Passenger Attacks Flight Attendant

CHICAGO (CBS) – Passengers were forced to take down a woman on a Chicago-bound United Express flight Thursday evening.

Shuttle America Flight 3461, operating as United Express, with 69 passengers and 4 crew on board, was headed from LaGuardia Airport in New York to O'Hare International Airport when it was forced to make a stop in Detroit, because a female passenger had attacked a flight attendant.

Passenger Matt Goldgraben says he was sitting next to the woman the incident erupted.

"She kind of jumped up at the flight attendant and started screaming at her to get away from her and was clawing at her face and neck and ripping her necklace off.  It was like slow motion, how it all went down," he tells CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot. "It was pretty unbelievable. I'd never had an incident on a plane before."

Four passengers helped restrain the woman. The men used belts and seat belt extenders to hold the woman in place until the plane landed in Detroit, and police arrived to remove her from the plane.

Bob Fitzsimmons was one of the men who helped bring her under control.

"She went to hit Chris more towards the face, and she started kicking me, so I grabbed her legs, he grabbed her arms," Fitzsimmons said. "A gentleman, Sal, he came flying over and jumped in the middle of it. He grabbed her legs, and then another gentleman got involved, Fletcher Oliver. So as they were sort of restraining her, I was grabbing things trying to tie her."

Unruly Passenger
(Source: Matthew Goldgraben)

On video recorded by some passengers, the woman can be heard screaming profanities and various slurs at the men holding her down.

Fitzsimmons said it's unclear what triggered the woman's outburst. He said it seemed as if she was having some type of psychotic episode, but he and other passengers who stepped in said they weren't sure what was going on, and they didn't want to take any chances.

"We kind of dragged her away from the galley, and a little bit out more in the aisle. We don't want her in a position where we can't see her arms. So she'd go from sort of calm and docile to then sort of erupting into sort of a fit," he said.

After the woman was arrested, the flight continued to O'Hare. Fitzsimmons estimated the plane was on the ground for 30 to 45 minutes in Detroit before they took off to Chicago without further incident.

No one was injured. It was not immediately clear if the woman who attacked the flight attendant has been charged.


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