A British man aboard a flight from London to Los Angeles grabbed a passenger seated in front of him by the throat and tried to hit and bite him, prompting the diversion of the flight to Utah, authorities said Wednesday.
William Stephen Hayes, 39, was arrested after the Virgin Atlantic flight landed Tuesday in Salt Lake City, police said in a statement. He was charged with assault and interfering with the flight crew, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah said in charging documents.
"Officers with the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Airport Division have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of being violent and unruly during an international flight," police said in a statement. "Based on the preliminary information, Hayes got upset mid-flight and after several attempts by the flight crew to maintain order, he became violent. Flight crew and passengers immediately intervened and restrained Hayes."
Witnesses told authorities that after passengers and crew members restrained and handcuffed Hayes following the alleged assault, he still tried to fight with people nearby and kick the plane's windows, the charging documents said.
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Local police took Hayes into custody after the plane landed and referred the case to the U.S. Attorney's office, which typically has authority over international flights. The plane then resumed its flight to Los Angeles.
No attorney who could comment on Hayes' behalf was listed in the charging documents. The U.S. Attorney's office did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
Virgin said in a statement that "the safety and wellbeing of our customers and crew is always our top priority and we don’t tolerate any behaviour that compromises this.”
“Our cabin crew are highly trained to deal with any individuals that may impact that experience for others,” the statement added.