Passengers sue over pilot's meltdown

Last updated 14:08 14/06/2012

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Ten passengers have filed a lawsuit against a US airline, claiming they feared for their lives when a pilot had to be physically restrained after running through the cabin yelling about Jesus and al-Qaeda during a New York to Las Vegas flight in March.

The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court in Queens, claims JetBlue Airways was "grossly negligent" in allowing Captain Clayton Osbon to fly.

Plaintiff Michael Bedziner, who was headed to a conference of security consultants, said that since the September 11 attacks, he has often looked around plane cabins, suspicious of who may be a terrorist.

"But you always look to the airline crew and say, 'OK, this is a group I can turn to and say we're safer.' What does this tell us? Now the very people that we're supposed to turn to for that assurance are the ones we're frightened of. And the pilot, no less," he said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit on Wednesday.

Sharon Jones, a JetBlue spokeswoman, said the airline does not comment on pending litigation.

A flight attendant's ribs were bruised as passengers tried to restrain Osbon, but no one on board was seriously injured. The March 27 flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas.

Osbon faces a hearing on Friday morning in Amarillo to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial. He faces federal charges of interfering with a flight crew. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

According to the lawsuit and a federal indictment, witnesses on Flight 191 say Osbon ran through the cabin in a wild rant. The first officer locked him out of the cockpit and passengers wrestled Osbon to the floor.

The lawsuit also claims he was "yelling about September 11th, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and terrorists".

Other comments, according to the suit, included "we're all going down", "you better start praying right now", "I'm going to show you Iraq and Iran right now", "there's a bomb on board" and "the plane will never make it to Vegas".

The 10 plaintiffs, all from the metropolitan New York area, are seeking unspecified damages for emotional distress.

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- AP

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