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BOSTON (WCVB) — When a man shouting odd claims and making threats aboard a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Boston stepped into the aisle, one passenger from a neighboring row immediately stood up to confront him.
That passenger was Jeff Neil, of Exeter, New Hampshire, who was sitting with his wife aboard United Flight 2609 on Sunday.
The man making the threats was identified by federal prosecutors as Francisco Severo Torres, 32, of Leominster. He faces charges of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon.
Prior to the physical confrontation aboard the plane, Torres allegedly tried to open a door in mid-flight. Court documents show the door’s alarm was triggered about 45 minutes prior to the flight’s arrival in Boston and a flight attendant saw the door’s locking handle had been moved.
Airplane doors cannot be opened once in flight due to cabin pressure.
Neil said he witnessed one of the flight attendants asking Torres if he tried opening the door. That, Neil said, was when the outburst began.
Several people tried to calm Torres down, but Neil said nothing seemed to be working. At that point, he was watching carefully and preparing himself.
“You could just tell it wasn’t heading in a good direction. I folded up my computer. I put my phone in my pocket. I took my seatbelt off,” he said.
Videos recorded by passengers showed Torres shouting at other passengers and a violent outburst that followed, in which he pulled a makeshift weapon out of a jacket pocket while saying, “Since I’m taking over this plane.”
That’s when Neil stood up in the aisle and confronted Torres.
“He’s accused of opening an emergency door. He made it clear that he didn’t care if he died. He made it clear that he wanted to kill everyone on that plane. And now he said he’s going to take over the plane. I, I don’t know what else you need to hear at that point,” said Neil.
Video below: More from Neil’s interview about the mid-flight incident
Torres began to move towards the front of the plane in response.
“I just simply wanted this guy to just stop and I’m not sure what I would have done if I actually had grabbed him at that point, but because he moved away and chased after the flight attendant it made it really easy to just go and grab him and try to end it as quickly as we possibly could,” said Neil.
Torres pulled something out of his pocket as he moved up the aisle. Court documents indicate he had broken a spoon to make a weapon, which he is accused of using in an attempt to stab a flight attendant.
Neil and other passengers joined the flight attendants in restraining Torres.
“At that point, I could actually feel additional folks behind me, kind of giving me support as well. And from there, I took him to the ground and there were guys that helped,” said Neil.
Video below: Witness describes escalation aboard flight
Together, the group kept Torres pinned to the floor.
“There was a moment when Mr. Torres wanted to bite me, and the gentleman to my left made it, helped resolve that issue,” said Neil.
Once it became clear that Torres was not going anywhere, Neil said the man finally stopped struggling.
When the flight landed, Neil said he and other passengers spoke with investigators from the Massachusetts State Police and the FBI.
Would Neil call himself a hero?
“I just think it was I was in the right place at the wrong time. I guess at the end of the day, I think anyone would have stepped up. I just happened to be there at that time. And honestly, I did it for my wife and family, first and foremost,” said Neil.
Torres is due to appear for a hearing in Federal court in Boston on Thursday. If he is ultimately convicted of the charges against him, Torres could face life in prison.
“Personally, I just hope he gets the help that he needs because, clearly, he’s dealing with some things there,” said Neil.
Francisco Severo Torres mug shots 2023 in 2017 Leominster Massachusetts man
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‘It’s a no-brainer’ says hero who confronted passenger who threatened flight to Boston – ilmhunt Ilmhunt | Miami News, Weather, Sports
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