HOUSTON - Authorities say a Houston woman who derailed an Ohio-bound flight to Arkansas this weekend was trying to open the emergency exit mid-flight. Court documents reveal that woman allegedly said ‘Jesus told her to do it.’
Cell phone video from a passenger onboard captures the moment law enforcement escorted 34-year-old Elom Agbegninou off the plane, after an emergency landing in Little Rock, Arkansas on Saturday. The flight was heading from Houston to Columbus, Ohio when it had to be derailed.
Court documents released by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas said Agbegninou tried to open the emergency exit while the plane was 37,000 feet in the air.
Records said flight attendants and fellow passengers wrestled Agbegninou to the ground and detained her. While she was pinned to the ground, Agbegninou apparently told witnesses Jesus told her to fly to Ohio and Jesus told her to open the plane door.
Documents said the woman bit the person who pinned her to the ground in the thigh. That person was later treated with antibiotics and hepatitis shots at a local hospital.
Records said Agbegninou admitted to authorities she bought a ticket that Saturday and flew without telling her husband.
Agbegninou has been taken into federal custody and is charged with assault within maritime and territorial jurisdiction and interference with flight crew members and attendants.
Susanne Hicks’ was surprised to see a FaceTime from her daughter just 30 minutes after her flight took off. Hicks was even more shocked to hear the chaos and panic in the background.
"She was kind of frantic. I had to calm her down. She said, 'mom, there is a lady screaming on the back of the plane.' The lady was screaming at the top of her lungs, and then she started screaming and singing gospel songs. Then, she proceeded to say over and over again, 'I'm not worthy. I'm not worthy,'" Hicks said.
According to the FAA, as of Nov. 1, 2022, there have been 2,178 reports of unruly passengers.
"In my view, this is a mental health issue and not an intoxication issue that many people are talking about. She clearly was having a mental health issue at the time," said FOX 26 legal analyst, Chris Tritico.
"In the US, we’re free. And because of that you can have mental health issues and travel as you wish. We don’t have to notify anybody. Interesting rules about removal from a flight. The only person who has the final authority to remove someone from a flight is the captain, not even the air marshall," Tritico continued.
As part of the FAA’s reauthorization bill, the FAA can propose up to $37,000 dollars per violation for unruly passenger cases. The maximum civil penalty per charge is $25,000.