SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Ukrainian man, hung over from a 50-day drinking binge, said he believed the wing of the airplane was on fire when he disrupted a Salt Lake City-bound Delta Air Lines flight and had to be wrestled to the floor by passengers, authorities allege in a criminal complaint.
Anatoliy N. Baranovich, 46, made his initial appearance in federal court Wednesday on complaints of damaging and disabling an aircraft and interfering with a flight crew. Federal authorities said Baranovich woke up during the plane's descent, started yelling in Russian and tried to open the rear exit door, damaging the plane's fuselage, before being restrained by passengers.
U.S. Magistrate Paul Warner scheduled a detention hearing for Friday.
Fellow passenger Mike Riegelman, a Boston resident who was flying in first class en route to Boise, Idaho, for a business trip, said Wednesday he was torn between feeling sorry for Baranovich and being impressed by the Ukrainian's drinking prowess.
"He scared a lot of people though," Riegelman said.
Baranovich boarded Delta Air Lines Flight 1215, bound for Salt Lake City, Monday evening in Boston. He was headed to Portland, Ore.
According to the criminal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Baranovich had been visiting family in the Ukraine for several weeks in an attempt to begin construction on a house. Unsuccessful in his efforts, Baranovich instead got drunk for the entire 50 days and "never sobered up."
After the plane touched down, Baranovich got up from his seat and ran to the back of the aircraft, according to the complaint. He then tried to open the emergency exit door as a flight attendant ordered him to stop.
The door jammed and caused an emergency inflatable slide to malfunction, which caused "extensive damage" to the plane's fuselage, the FBI said.
Several passengers tried to wrestle Baranovich to the ground while he attempted to open another emergency exit door. One passenger forced him to the ground and held him until the plane taxied to a gate, where law enforcement and medical personnel had been called.
Flight attendants announced that there was a medical emergency on board, Riegelman said, but a neighboring passenger had told him the rear door was open. Police cars greeted the plane at the terminal, he said.
"The flight attendant was a big guy, and he went screaming to the back of the plane. I've never seen a big guy that big move that fast," Riegelman said. "Delta handled it well and, obviously, the passengers held onto the guy. The good news is people are alert and willing to help."
Baranovich appeared "completely disheveled" after being escorted off the plane by police, Riegelman said.
Baranovich was carrying a Ukrainian passport and U.S. visa. Officials said they do not believe he posed a terrorist threat.
If convicted, Baranovich faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count.