Lawyer: Passenger Took Cocaine Before Disrupting Air Canada Flight
ORLANDO, FLA. - A lawyer says a Canadian man took cocaine before boarding a flight where he allegedly attacked the crew with coffee pots and tried to open a cabin door.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that 34-year-old Brandon Michael Courneyea appeared Monday in Orlando federal court. He has been charged with interfering with flight crew members and attendants after his May 15 flight from Jamaica to Canada was diverted to Orlando.
Defence attorney Corey Cohen said Courneyea was “very remorseful” about the incident. Cohen said Courneyea took cocaine an hour before the Air Canada flight. Toxicology reports are pending.
“He doesn’t care so much what happens to him. He’s more worried about his family that is without his help,” the lawyer told the newspaper.
Cohen said his client has five children, two of whom have special needs.
Cohen has asked the judge to release Courneyea into his father’s custody so they can return home to Kingston, Ont. Prosecutors want Courneyea to remain in jail.
Courneyea’s wife previously told The Canadian Press his arrest came as a complete shock, saying his alleged behaviour is not in keeping with the man she knows.
“That is not my husband at all,” she said. “There’s a lot more to what brought that on, because my husband is the kindest, most loving man you’ll ever meet. And anybody that knows him will tell you the same thing.”
Amanda Courneyea said her 33-year-old husband headed off to Jamaica to fulfil a long-held desire to take a vacation there.
But Brandon Courneyea’s vacation plans went awry almost immediately, according to his wife, who said he told her that locals were threatening his life.
She arranged for him to move up his flight plans from Friday to Monday, booking him on an Air Canada flight to Toronto that left Montego Bay in the late afternoon.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Courneyea, disruptions began almost as soon as the flight was in the air.
A flight attendant told an FBI investigator that she first heard signs of a “verbal disturbance” shortly after takeoff, though Courneyea soon settled down.
He came to the crew’s attention again, however, when he allegedly began yelling at passengers for “looking at him” and threw a wad of paper at a woman sitting nearby, the complaint said.
Crew members asked Courneyea to move to the back of the plane, but Courneyea allegedly walked erratically through the aircraft, at one point without shoes on.
Eventually, the criminal complaint states, Courneyea entered the back of the plane, picked up a full coffee pot and began swinging it at a flight attendant.
Passengers also found themselves in the path of the coffee pot, according to a Toronto city councillor who happened to be on board the flight.
Coun. Michael Thompson said he had accompanied Courneyea to the back of the plane in order to make sure he wasn’t alone and talk to him if needed. Courneyea asked Thompson to leave him alone before resorting to other measures, Thompson said.
“I had a particular encounter with a hot coffee pot that he was threatening to throw on me,” he said. “I was simply trying to prevent him from taking certain actions that I thought would perhaps endanger the safety of the plane.”
The criminal complaint outlines those actions in more detail.
“A fellow passenger attempted to calm Courneyea however, these attempts were futile,” it reads. “Courneyea then stated that it would only take one guy to take the plane down and that he wanted to take everyone with him.”
After grabbing another full coffee pot, Courneyea allegedly dove for the back exit and tried to pull up a lever to open the door.
The complaint said both crew and passengers jumped in to restrain Courneyea and eventually bound his arms and legs to a seat using zip ties.
Air Canada spokesman Isabelle Arthur said Courneyea’s efforts to open a door mid-flight would not have succeeded, saying it’s “impossible to do during flight.”
She said crew followed standard procedures for dealing with unruly passengers, adding the airline would not offer further comment as the incident is now a police matter.
Many commercial aircraft use what are known as plug doors that are sealed by the pressure inside the plane and must be pulled inward before they can be opened.