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Man accused of trying to open jet’s door, attacking crew

BOSTON >> A Massachusetts man tried to open an airliner’s emergency door on a cross-country flight from Los Angeles to Boston and then tried to stab a flight attendant in the neck with a broken metal spoon, federal prosecutors alleged today.

Francisco Severo Torres, 33, of Leominster, Mass., was tackled and restrained with the aid of passengers and arrested Sunday at Boston Logan International Airport when United Airlines Flight 2609 landed, the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston said in a statement.

He was charged with interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon, the statement added.

The man was detained at an initial appearance in federal court today and awaits a hearing scheduled for Thursday. An email seeking comment was left with his federal public defender.

The plane was about 45 minutes from arrival in Boston when the crew received an alarm that a side door on the aircraft was disarmed, prosecutors said.

A flight attendant noticed that the door’s locking handle had been moved out of the fully locked position about a quarter of the way toward the unlocked position and that the emergency slide arming lever had been moved to the disarmed position, authorities said. The crew secured the door and slide.

Another flight attendant had noticed that Torres was seen near the door and believed he had tampered with it. The crew told the captain that he was a threat and the plane should be landed as soon as possible.

At that point, prosecutors allege, Torres got out of his seat, approached two flight attendants standing in the aisle, and used the spoon to make stabbing motions, hitting a flight attendant three times in the neck area.

Passengers tackled Torres, who was restrained with the assistance of the crew.

United Airlines said no one was injured.

“Thanks to the quick action of our crew and customers, one customer was restrained after becoming a security concern on United flight 2609 from Los Angeles to Boston,” the company statement said. “The flight landed safely and was met by law enforcement.”

The airline said it has a zero tolerance policy for violence and Torres will be banned from flying on United pending an investigation.

One passenger told investigators that Torres had asked where on the safety card it showed where the door handle was located during the flight attendants’ pre-takeoff safety briefing, prosecutors said.

If convicted, he could face life in prison.

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