Joseph Daniel Hudek IV, the Florida man accused of assaulting a flight attendant on a Delta Air Lines flight from Seattle to Beijing, appeared Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle and is facing a federal charges.
A Delta Air Lines flight from Seattle to Beijing returned to Sea-Tac Airport Thursday evening after Hudek, 23, reportedly assaulted and injured a flight attendant.
Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper said 45 minutes after the departure of Delta Flight 129, there was an in-flight disturbance in the first-class cabin in which a passenger assaulted a flight attendant. The flight had departed Sea-Tac shortly after 5 p.m.
There were approximately 210 passengers and 11 flight crew on board the plane.
Hudek was in the first-class cabin, traveling on a "dependent pass." According to KIRO-TV, Hudek’s mother is a Delta employee.
Prior to takeoff, Hudek asked a flight attendant for a beer, which he received. He did not have any additional alcoholic drinks, and he did not appear to be intoxicated, court documents state.
Approximately one hour into the flight, Hudek reportedly used the lavatory twice and after exiting the lavatory the second time, he lunged toward an exit door, grabbed the handle and attempted to open the door.
At that time, the flight attendant asked for assistance from other passengers in the area and notified the cockpit of the situation.
The pilot called in the situation and the plane was diverted back to Seattle.
As the attendant continued to struggle with Hudek, he reportedly then punched the attendant twice in the face and hit a passenger who was trying to assist the attendant in the head with a wine bottle.
Witnesses then said that Hudek again attempted to open the exit door. A passenger who tried to pull Hudek away from the door was also punched multiple times.
As the struggle between the passenger and Hudek continued, a flight attendant grabbed two wine bottles and hit Hudek on the head twice, eventually breaking one of the wine bottles.
One passenger, who did not want to share his name said: “They broke two bottles of wine on his head. I tried to choke him and he just threw me off like a rag doll."
Court documents state that Hudek seemed unfazed by a full bottle of wine being broken over his head and shouted something along the lines of, "Do you know who I am?"
Eventually, a passenger assisting the flight attendants was able to get Hudek into a headlock and as Hudek struggled to free himself, several other passengers came to assist in subduing him. After restraining him long enough, they were able to secure Hudek with zip ties.
Hudek reportedly remained "extremely" combative and several passengers were needed to restrain him until the plane landed at Sea-Tac.
Dustin Jones, who was seated directly behind the curtains separating first class from the rest of the plane, said he could tell a scuffle was going on.
“One of the flight attendants ran back and said there was a Code 3. There was a serious fight up front,” Jones said.
Britteny Gardner, who was on the flight, said that in the main cabin passengers heard an announcement asking for a doctor.
“Somebody that was working had blood on their shirt,” Gardner said.
Despite what happened, a passenger told KIRO-TV that the crew and the rest of the passengers remained mostly calm.
Witnesses on the plane said they were afraid for their lives when they saw the force with which Hudek attempted to open the door; he reportedly pushed the emergency lever halfway up.
A flight attendant said that given the flight's low altitude it would have been possible to open the door.
The plane landed at approximately 7:10 p.m. and officers boarded the plane and took Hudek into custody. Hudek was also combative with officers.
Once back at Sea-Tac, Hudek was handcuffed and zip-tied to a wheelchair as he was rolled out of the terminal, according to Jones.
"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."
A flight attendant and passenger were immediately transported to a hospital to be treated for injuries sustained in the incident.
Delta released the following statement:
“Flight 129 returned to Seattle following a security incident with a passenger. The passenger was restrained onboard and was removed from the flight by law enforcement without further incident when the aircraft arrived back in Seattle. The flight is scheduled to re-depart for Beijing later this evening.”
The FBI told Sea-Tac officials there is no information that the incident is a national security threat.