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NWA MSP-NRT Divert to ANC - Pax Says He's a Terrorist

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NWA MSP-NRT Divert to ANC - Pax Says He's a Terrorist

Old 22nd Nov 2002, 18:29
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NWA MSP-NRT Divert to ANC - Pax Says He's a Terrorist

Sadly, becoming a routine news item for overwater long haul flights. As usual, alcohol may be a factor.


Man threatens passenger, says he's a terrorist

ARREST: Northwest flight en route to Tokyo diverted to Anchorage.

By Tataboline Brant
Anchorage Daily News

(Published: November 22, 2002)
A Boeing 747 en route from Minneapolis to Tokyo was diverted to Anchorage on Thursday and searched by bomb-sniffing dogs after an unruly passenger claimed to be a terrorist, federal officials said.

The plane remained in Anchorage overnight, said Eric Gonzalez, a special agent in the FBI's Anchorage office.

Matthew Leggett, 42, of Houston was arrested on felony charges of interfering with a flight crew, Gonzalez said. Leggett was taken into custody by airport police without incident and was taken to Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Gonzalez said.

"He was pretty calm as he left the plane," he said.

There were 333 passengers and 18 crew members aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 19, Gonzalez said. While in the air, passengers complained that Leggett was bothering them and a flight attendant tried to talk to him, Gonzalez said.

"He made some threatening gestures, snapping his fingers in the face of the flight attendant."

Because of the long distance of the flight, two teams of pilots were aboard. The relief crew was asked to talk to Leggett, Gonzalez said.

"Mr. Leggett had threatened to kill another passenger," Gonzalez said. "The pilots were able to calm him down, and a decision was made to divert the plane."

"Mr. Leggett was very agitated. He claimed to be a terrorist," Gonzalez said. "He said, 'You don't know who I am.' He was just acting bizarre."

Flight 19 landed at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport around 4:08 p.m. Passengers got off, and bomb-sniffing dogs from Airport Police and Fire and Elmendorf Air Force Base were brought in to search the plane.

"This is just being done in an abundance of caution," Gonzalez said.

No one was injured, Gonzalez said. Alcohol and medication are believed to have been involved, Gonzalez said. Leggett had a bottle of alcohol on the plane that the flight crew didn't know about, he said.

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