Passenger Arrested Attempting To Open Aircraft Door In Flight <


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Passenger Arrested Attempting To Open Aircraft Door In Flight

By Mike Mitchell

January 28, 2010, Gregory Thomas Burns, age 33, a Sydney Center, New York, man, was arrested this morning on charges of interference with flight crew and attendants for his conduct aboard United Airlines Flight 223 on January 23, 2010, U.S. Attorney David M. Gaouette and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge James H. Davis announced. Burns, whose was charged in a sealed Criminal Complaint, was arrested without incident.

Burns appeared in U.S. District Court in Denver this afternoon where he was advised of the charges pending against him. He is next scheduled to be in court on Friday, January 29, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. for a detention and preliminary hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland. 

The affidavit in support of the Criminal Complaint states, on January 23, 2010, the Denver Police Department and the FBI were advised that United Flight 223, which was flying from Dulles, Virginia to Las Vegas, Nevada, was being diverted to Denver International Airport because a disruptive passenger tried to open an entrance/exit door onboard the aircraft during flight. 


According to the plane’s captain, he received a call from a flight attendant, who reported that passenger Burns attempted to open the aircraft’s door. The attendant further reported that Burns was restrained by passengers. The captain then declared an in-flight emergency, which resulted in immediately diverting to Denver. One passenger interviewed by agents and officers said he noticed Burns come up from economy class and attempt to open the front left door of the aircraft. The passenger, with the assistance of other passengers, restrained Burns. After Burns was restrained he was searched for weapons and/or explosives, with negative results. 

A flight attendant interviewed by agents and officers stated that she looked at the front left door and noticed the door’s operating handle was up and the cabin pressure light was on, which indicated the door was losing pressure. She tried to pull the operating handle down but it seemed jammed. The attendant then kept her hand on the operating handle. As the plane descended to Denver the handle locked down. She also had the female passengers seated in first class move to coach and had male passengers sit near Burns. For her safety, she obtained a carrier door which could be used as a shield. Another flight attendant retrieved two wine bottles from the galley. He gave one to a passenger seated near Burns. He kept the other bottle, which were held for passenger protection. He also blocked Burns’ access to the aisle. 


Once the plane landed safely at DIA, Burns was removed from the plane and then detained. According to investigators, Burns drank multiple beers and gin drinks before and during the flight. He also allegedly took tranquilizer-type pills. Burns told the agents and officers that he thought he was on the wrong aircraft and that the plane was on the ground. “This incident, as did the recent incident in Colorado Springs, shows that flight crews can quickly act to address the illegal conduct of a disruptive passenger,” said U.S. Attorney David Gaouette. 

“The FBI would like to acknowledge the passengers’ efforts on United Flight #223 to recognize and diffuse a disruptive and potentially dangerous situation,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge James H. Davis. “Everyone who flies should be on notice that actions and behavior that are disruptive or violent, affecting the flight crew or passengers, will be taken seriously. These crimes endanger everyone and the FBI will continue to aggressively investigate and pursue federal charges.”  If convicted, Burns faces up to 20 years in federal prison, and /or not more than a $250,000 fine. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with assistance from the Denver Police Department. Burns is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Bergsieker. 

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