PORTLAND – A passenger on the Hawaiian Airlines flight that was diverted back to Portland earlier this week caught some of the chaos on video.
Brandon Sams told KGW in an email that there was “quite a bit of worry on the plane” when it turned around and headed back to Portland because the pilot had announced on the loudspeaker that there was a “mechanical failure.”
“Some of us weren’t even sure if we were going to make it back to land safely,” he recalled. “When we landed, we were very confused because the pilot came on the intercom and said, ‘it's very important that everyone remains seated in their seats until we get this situation sorted out.’"
Sams said he had no idea the real reason they had turned back was because of an unruly passenger. That is, until officers boarded the plane and escorted a man and his companion off.
Sams’ three videos show the plane heading toward the terminal with fire trucks and police cars following it. Then, officers come onto the plane and escort the man and a companion off. And the final video clip shows officers handcuffing the man. (All three clips were edited together by KGW and can be viewed by clicking on the "play" button at the top of this story.)
“It wasn't until the officers came onto the plane when we realized that this might be a security issue. We were all very relieved when the man was escorted and the pilot came on and said there was indeed a ‘security issue’ that was being taken care of, and not a ‘mechanical failure’ of the airplane,” Sams said.
The passenger who was escorted off the plane turned out to be a 56-year-old man from Salem who allegedly made some derogatory or threatening remarks to flight attendants. Flight attendants also said the man refused to stow his carry-on bag or put his hands in plain view; new rules that were implemented aboard flights since the Christmas Day terror attack attempt.
Next, investigators searched the plane with several resources, including bomb-sniffing dogs before allowing the passengers to return.
Sams and most of the others chose to continue on to Maui after officers deemed the plane safe, and eventually reached their destination about 12 hours later.
As for the suspect, he and his companion were questioned by the FBI and eventually released. But they were not allowed to re-board the Maui-bound flight. No names have been released and the U.S. Attorney General's Office told KGW charges could still be pending.