SEATTLE >> A flight attendant broke a wine bottle over the head of a man who lunged for an exit door and fought with other passengers during a Delta Air Lines flight from Seattle to Beijing, but it didn’t faze him, an FBI agent wrote in charging papers filed today.
Joseph Daniel Hudek IV, 23, of Tampa, Florida, appeared in U.S. District Court, wearing a beige jail uniform and sporting a scrape or bruise below his right eye.
He was arrested Thursday night after causing the disturbance that forced the plane to return to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, authorities said.
Hudek did not speak during the hearing. His attorney, Robert Flennaugh II, declined to comment.
Hudek was charged with interfering with a flight crew, which carries a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is expected to remain in custody at least until a detention hearing on July 13.
One flight attendant and a passenger were taken to a hospital after suffering severe facial injuries, authorities said. Perry Cooper, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle, described the injuries as non-life-threatening.
A probable cause statement written by FBI special agent Caryn Highley said Hudek was sitting in the first row of the Boeing 767’s first-class section. He asked a flight attendant for a beer before takeoff, and was served one, but he exhibited no sign of being intoxicated and ordered no other alcoholic drinks, the attendant told authorities.
About an hour into the flight, while the plane was over the Pacific Ocean northwest of Vancouver Island, Hudek went into the forward restroom. He came out quickly, asked the attendant a question, and went back in, the agent wrote.
When he came out again two minutes later, he suddenly lunged for the exit door, grabbed the handle and tried to open it, Highley wrote. Two attendants grabbed him, but he pushed them away, and the attendants signaled for help from several passengers and notified the cockpit by telephone, the complaint said.
Hudek punched one flight attendant twice in the face and struck at least one passenger in the head with a red dessert wine bottle, it said.
As the struggle continued, a flight attendant grabbed two wine bottles and hit Hudek over the head with each — breaking at least one of them, Highley wrote.
According to one flight attendant, “Hudek did not seem impacted by the breaking of a full liter red wine bottle over his head, and instead shouted, ‘Do you know who I am?’ or something to that extent,” the complaint said.
One passenger got him in a head-lock, but he broke out of it, until finally several passengers held him long enough to place zip-tie restraints on him, Highley wrote. Even then he remained combative, she said, and it took multiple passengers to keep him restrained until the plane landed and Port of Seattle police arrested him.
Hudek had been traveling on a “dependent pass,” the complaint said. Such passes allow certain relatives of Delta employees to fly standby.
Passenger Dustin Jones told KIRO-TV that he saw the man being rolled into the terminal in a wheelchair after the plane landed.
“He started yelling for help,” Jones said. “And so he turned the wheelchair over in the middle of the airport, screaming for people to help him, just being belligerent.”
The flight left for Beijing later Thursday night.