Plane diverted after passenger attacks flight attendant

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 5:23 AM EDT
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SANTA ANA, Calif. (KCAL/KCBS) - An American Airlines flight landed early after a passenger physically assaulted a female flight attendant. Witnesses say the initial dispute was about wearing a mask.

Flight 976 from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York was diverted to Denver International after a passenger assaulted a female flight attendant Wednesday evening. The plane was on its way to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California.

Mackenzie Rose, a passenger on the flight, says the incident occurred about halfway through the trip when the plane was over Ohio. The suspect was reportedly in first or business class, and witnesses say the dispute started over wearing a mask.

Rose says the flight attendant had blood on her after the assault.

“I understand that he actually punched her twice. I did see her walk back down the aisle afterwards. She had blood splattered on the outside of her mask. If you’re not prepared to wear a mask, you’re not prepared to fly is kind of the moral of the story,” Rose said.

Another passenger, identified only as Jack, says a doctor on board checked over the flight attendant after the assault. She was taken to the hospital once the plane landed.

American Airlines says the flight was able to taxi safely to the gate in Denver, where law enforcement removed the suspect. In a statement, the airline said it was “outraged by the reports of what took place on board.”

The suspect has been banned from all future flights with the airline, and the company said, “We will not be satisfied until he has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

The FBI is assisting in the investigation.

No other injuries were reported, nor was the suspect’s name released.

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