The U.S. attorney for Nebraska said Wednesday he is still waiting on reports from the FBI about an unstable passenger aboard a Continental Air Express commuter jet who attacked a flight attendant.
The jet was heading from Houston to Omaha last Friday when a middle-aged man left the plane's lavatory after about 40 minutes covered in his own feces.
"Oh, it was awful. It was worse than that." Stacey, from Houston, who asked that we not use her last name, says the plane had just one flight attendant in the cabin, a young man who moved the other passengers forward to empty seats and kept the unkempt passenger in the back row.
The flight attendant asked the passenger to go back into the lavatory and clean up.
"I hear all of this ruckus and this yelling and I kind of turned around and the poor flight attendant is on his back and the guy is like punching him and I'm like, oh my gosh. It's almost like a scene out of a movie. There were two male passengers behind me that got up and kind of got the guy off of him. The poor steward, he's got a black eye, his eye's swelling. I felt so sorry for him."
The injured attendant, with help from the passengers, got the unruly passenger buckled in and calmed down for the landing at Eppley Airfield, which took place without incident an hour later. The airline will not comment on the attendant's condition, but we understand he will be okay.
Sources tell Channel 6 News the man resides at a care facility in Iowa and was returning from a Christmas holiday trip alone, completing a trip from Chicago to Houston and then Omaha.
The U.S. attorney says the man was not arrested, but detained at the airport by authorities until picked up by trained professionals from the care facility in Iowa.
"It certainly may be difficult for us to prove the right mental capacity to prove intent,” says U.S. Attorney Joe Stecher. “Based on the knowledge we had at that time, we did not request detention. The individual was released to people who are very capable of taking care of him and have for some time."
"Certainly there was a disturbance. That disturbance was loud. It did get physical. It got violent. We're glad it came to the conclusion that it did, but I can certainly understand anybody on that plane being upset by what they saw."
Airlines are provided lists of people restricted from flying. The passenger's name was not on any of those lists.
Stecher says even if no criminal charges are brought, the investigation will look into what kind of mental treatment the man has been undergoing and whether that should have kept him from flying alone and unsupervised.