Berserk passenger forces airplane to divert to Cleveland
July 8, 2011 at 9:06 PM EST - Updated June 24 at 3:58 PM
A United Airlines 777 airplane out of Chicago at 2:45 p.m. CT was diverted to Cleveland Hopkins Airport Friday evening.
This, after a passenger on the UAL 944 flight went berserk while enroute to Frankfurt, Germany.
Joe Shulfer of Woodstock told CBS affiliate WBBM that the suspect had been in the restroom for 20 or 30 minutes and wouldn't come out.
Once out, the suspect refused to calm down when asked. Other passengers intervened but were not successful.
According to Schulfer, they handcuffed the suspicious passenger and tied up his feet, but he started spitting and swearing. "So we duct-taped his mouth shut," he says. "He was able to get that off himself. He almost choked himself by swallowing the duct tape."
Then they secured a surgical mask over his face "just to get him to kind of shut up and stop spitting all over everybody," according to Schulfer.
During the commotion, the crew told the pilot that the passenger would not comply.
Two hours into the flight, the pilot made a U-turn around Buffalo eyeing Hopkins for an emergency landing.
Once in Cleveland, the passenger and his bags were removed. A K-9 unit was called in to check out the plane as a precaution.
The suspect was taken into the custody of the FBI and Cleveland Police.
None of the passengers or crew were ever in any danger. The plane continued flight after the male was removed.
The investigation is ongoing at this time.
STATEMENT FROM UNITED AIRLINES: United Airlines flight 944 en route from Chicago to Frankfurt diverted to Cleveland around 5:30 p.m. local time due to a disturbance involving a passenger. United is cooperating with authorities who met the flight, and the passenger was removed.