Fight on Air NZ flight stopped by ex-All Black

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Former All Black Ofisa Tonu'u helped restrain a violent passenger who began a fight on an Air New Zealand flight between Auckland and Wellington this morning.

Police are investigating the incident in which a man assaulted a fellow passenger onboard the 9.30am flight from Auckland to Wellington.

Sergeant Roly Gascoine said the 42-year-old man had been travelling with his parents from Tokyo and had become increasingly agitated as the Auckland to Wellington flight neared Wellington.

The cause of this agitation was that he had not taken prescribed medication, according to Sgt Gascoine of the Wellington airport police.

"He became increasingly agitated during the flight and ultimately assaulted a man sitting near him."

Tonu'u told Radio New Zealand the man appeared agitated and began swearing and became violent towards the end of the trip.


He said he and another man had to force the 42-year-old into a seat in the aisle after seeing him throw punches at another person.

"We didn't punch each other, but we were wrestling and he wanted to really have a go at this guy.

"But I managed to pin him down into this aisle seat and then launched myself on him and tried to restrain him from jumping at this guy."

Tonu'u told One News his intervention was instinctive.

"It's like when there's a fight in a rugby game you just want to go over and stop the fight.

Tonu'u sat on the man until police arrived.

Police then escorted the man off the plane on arrival in Wellington.

Sergeant Gascoine said there was no real danger to the flight, crew or passengers but that it was obviously an upsetting incident to witness.

No formal complaints from passengers or Air New Zealand staff had been laid, but police were investigating the incident.

The man was being held by police until he was assessed by mental health authorities but police said until they knew the state of his mental health, they would not know if he could be charged.

Sgt Gascoine said cabin crew had responded well to police training on how to deal with unruly passengers.

Aviation Security Service general manager Mark Everitt, said flight crews were trained to deal with unruly passengers but would not give details on the training or confirm Air New Zealand carried handcuffs or other restraints on their aircraft.

He said flight crews had enough training to deal with commotions in the air.

"I think we have been very pro-active with disruptive passengers over the last few years and we have reduced the number of incidents with training and awareness.

"As a general statement, I am happy."

The airline refused comment on the passengers who helped restrain the man.

Tonu'u had his All Blacks debut 11 years ago today when he played against a Boland invitational team at Worcester in South Africa, northeast of Cape Town. He played eight games for the All Blacks, including five tests.

- With NZPA