Airplane Passengers Tackle Man Trying to Open Exit Door Mid-flight


Southwest Airlines Flight 722 passengers performed a heroic act on April 14, when they stopped a man from opening an exit door on the airplane mid-flight from Chicago Midway International Airport to Sacramento International Airport. Witnesses say the man appeared to be intoxicated and was attempting to jump from the airplane. Some passengers noticed that his pupils were dilated, and his speech was slurred. A group of male passengers ran down the aisle and tackled the passenger to the ground.

Witnesses on board said the other passengers on the flight were screaming, crying and almost fainting. The passenger emerged from the bathroom after dousing himself in water, walked to the back of the plane and began fiddling with the exit hatch. One of the heroic passengers, Dr. Scott Porter, thought it was a medical emergency at first and got up to respond, but quickly realized that it was a threat on the planes safety.

The Southwest Airline pilot made an emergency landing at a Nebraska airport. The man identified as; Joshua Carl Lee Suggs age 23 was taken off the plane by air marshals in Omaha and escorted into a waiting police vehicle. The other passengers on the plane credit the group of men who heroically charged Suggs from preventing him from putting the plane and passengers in any danger. Reports suggest that one of the men who helped restrain Suggs was a law enforcement officer. Suggs was handcuffed and sat next to the law enforcement officer for the remainder of the flight. Passenger Lori DePalma is grateful there were a few burly men on board to stop Suggs who stood at least 6’0”. After the incident, the flight continued on to its destination and arrived in Sacramento two hours off schedule.

Suggs is due in court on Wednesday afternoon on April 16 in Omaha Nebraska. Joshua Carl Lee Suggs’ attorney James Martin Davis claims Suggs’ erratic behavior was due to a panic attack. Davis states that Suggs thought the plane was moving up and down. The attorney feels the panic attacks may have been due to psychological reasons or drug induced. The attorney will ask the judge for psychiatric tests to be performed on his client. Suggs apparently approached the flight attendants an hour into the flight but was told to be seated since the seatbelt sign was still on, and he was not permitted to leave his seat. After a second encounter, Suggs pushed the flight attendant and attempted to open the exit door. According to the pilot on the Southwest flight the incident was scary but the actual act of opening the door mid-flight would be next to impossible due to the pressurized cabin.

Regardless of whether Suggs, a Sacramento native, could have pulled off opening the exit door mid-flight on the airplane of flight 722 on Southwest Airlines still displayed heroic efforts. Suggs’ attorney suggests his client was upset by the recent incident with the lost airplane in Malaysia. Suggs’ disturbance with the on board staff and crew could get him a conviction of up to 20 years in jail.

By Christina Thompson

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