EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — Lisa Olsen was on a flight home to the East Coast from Los Angeles with her husband and teenage daughter when another passenger started ranting incoherently.
“He was rambling about being Balthazar and that his father was Dracula,” the resident of East Greenwich, Rhode Island told News 2’s sister station, WPRI.
The man’s unusual behavior escalated shortly before the United Airlines flight was scheduled to land at Boston Logan International Airport.
“The guy’s voice was getting louder and louder, and that’s when he started saying, ‘I’m going to kill everybody on the plane,'” Olsen said. “‘I’m going to kill all of the men; the women and children are safe.'”
Flight attendants were already suspicious of the man prior to the outburst. Prosecutors said the man, identified as 33-year-old Francisco Severo Torres, was seen near an emergency door just moments before the cockpit received an alert that it had been disarmed.
Shortly after re-securing the door, one of the flight attendants confronted Torres about it. Torres denied being anywhere near the door, and reportedly asked if there were cameras on the plane that could prove he had tampered with it.
“He became very defensive,” Olsen recalled. “He said, ‘How do you know it was me?'”
The flight attendant determined Torres was a threat and urged the captain to land the plane as soon as possible, according to prosecutors.
It was then that Torres reportedly got out of his seat and later ran toward two flight attendants who were standing near the emergency door. Prosecutors said Torres tried to stab one of those flight attendants with a broken metal spoon.
“As he was running down the aisle, 10 to 15 men on the plane just got up and started chasing him,” she said. “[The men] tackled him and restrained him … It took four guys to just sit on him since he was still erratic and screaming.”
(Story continues below video.)
Olsen said the flight attendants attempted to restrain the man using zip ties but were unsuccessful.
“They zip-tied his feet and his hands, but he broke free of the first set,” Olsen said. “I don’t know if they didn’t put them on tight enough or he was just so erratic that they broke.”
“The flight attendants put another set on him, and passengers started taking their belts off to pass them up and help with the restraints,” she continued.
Olsen said despite the intensity of the situation, she and the other passengers remained calm. The men kept Torres restrained for roughly a half hour until the plane landed.
“They were getting tired because he was fighting the entire time,” Olsen said. “Each time one guy was getting visibly tired, the next guy in line swapped in.”
“People were clapping and thanking them as each guy went back [to their seat],” she continued.
Torres was taken into custody shortly after the plane landed.
Olsen said she didn’t know Torres had tried to open the emergency door prior to attacking the flight attendant.
“It’s scary that it was premeditated, that he had intended to do this,” she said. “I think I would’ve been more upset or scared if I knew all of this at the time.”
While Olsen and her family were initially shaken up by the ordeal, she tells WPRI they’re grateful for the quick thinking of their fellow passengers who took control of the situation.
There were no serious injuries during the flight, a United Airlines spokesperson told News 2’s parent company, Nexstar. The company is cooperating with the law enforcement investigation.
“We have zero tolerance for any type of violence on our flights, and this customer will be banned from flying on United pending an investigation,” the statement read.
Torres has been charged with interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon. His next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.
Jeremy Tanner contributed to this report.