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Video Shows Passengers and Crew Subduing Off-Duty Delta Employee Who Threatened to ‘Take Down’ the Aircraft


An off-duty employee onboard a Delta Airlines flight from California to Georgia forced the plane to make an emergency landing in Oklahoma City after he attacked the flight crew, threatened to crash the plane, and attempted to open the pressurized plug door. Several passengers onboard the plane posted videos to social media about the incident.

Video from the incident was shared by an unnamed passenger aboard the flight. The passenger said they initially believed that the man, later identified as 34-year-old Stephon Jamar Duncan, was attempting to hijack the plane. Local news outlet ABC7 reported that authorities in Oklahoma City said that Duncan was “an off-duty Delta employee” who threatened to “take down the plane.”

“The man made an announcement that we needed to be close to our oxygen masks & proceeded to try & open the door,” the passenger, whose Twitter handle is @alifuckingburns, wrote. “They then called all the ‘strong men’ to the front of the plane to restrain him. We ended up landing in OKC as it was the closest airport to us.” He later clarified that the man was actually “trying to open the door to the outside, not the cockpit.”

The video shows multiple passengers and members of the flight crew retraining the man and pulling him away from the cockpit and pressurized exit door. Because the plane was at cruising altitude of over 30,000 feet at the time of the passenger’s outburst, opening the pressurized plug door would be impossible for any individual, as it would require more than 20,000 pounds of pressure to dislodge.

After the man was subdued, the flight was diverted to Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma City Police Department told local ABC News affiliate WSB-TV that the man made “terroristic threats” and “assaulted two flight attendants while trying to take down the plane.” OKCPD also confirmed that the flight crew asked for and received help from passengers and an off-duty pilot to subdue and hold the unruly passenger down until the plane landed safely.

According to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, law enforcement authorities said that the individual claimed to be suffering from chest pains and had exhibited “signs of mental health issues.” The man, who may face assault and battery charges for hitting members of the flight crew, was taken to a hospital in Oklahoma City where agents from the FBI questioned him.

After law enforcement authorities performed a sweep of the plane, passengers re-boarded and landed safely in Atlanta.

The airline clarified that the individual never attempted to hijack the plane, per a report from CBS46.

“Thanks to the crew and passengers of Delta Flight 1730 (LAX to ATL) who assisted in detaining an unruly passenger as the flight diverted to Oklahoma City (OKC),” A Delta spokesperson said in a statement following the incident. “The aircraft landed without incident and the passenger was removed by law enforcement. We apologize to our customers for the delay and any additional inconvenience this caused.”

Delta did not immediately respond to further inquiries about Duncan’s role with the airline.

[image and video via @BenjaminCurlee/Twitter @alifuckingburns/Twitter]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.