SAN FRANCISCO -- A teenage boy traveling alone opened an emergency door after his plane landed, slid down the wing and jumped onto a tarmac at San Francisco before shocked passengers could do anything to stop him, witnesses said.
The 17-year-old, a U.S. citizen, removed the door minutes after the Copa Airlines flight arrived from Central America, San Francisco Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said.
An airfield construction crew working nearby confronted the boy and held him until police arrived and arrested him. The teen, who appeared to be in emotional distress during the flight, was not injured, Yakel said.
Witnesses said the teen seemed fidgety and anxious throughout the seven-hour flight from Panama City, Panama, and that by the time passengers realized the door had been opened, he was already on the ground, running.
"We (had) just landed and then I hear some people scream … like, 'No!"' 11-year-old passenger Andrea Sepulveda Guzman told CBS San Francisco. "And then this guy, I see him jump on the wing and then he starts climbing down the wing and then he just runs. And then he just starts running the other way. And everyone was just screaming."
There was no immediate word on why the teen did it, the station says.
Copa Airlines said in a statement that over-wing emergency exits are designed to be opened by passengers after the plane reaches a lower altitude to allow for an evacuation in case of an emergency. But, the carrier added, it is a violation of federal law to open them without having been instructed to do so by the crew.
The Panama-based airline said in a brief statement that the plane then taxied to the gate, where all the other passengers of Copa Airlines Flight 208 disembarked without incident.
Passenger Isaac Rodrigues said a flight attendant used her body to block the gap where the door had been until the plane was at the gate.
"They put one of the stewardesses to block it so no one would fall out of there or leave," he said. "We were on the runway for about an hour."
No runways or other flights were affected, Yakel said.