A woman accused of trying to open an aircraft door while the plane was en route from San Francisco to Boise on Monday morning was detained by police at the Boise Airport gate — and turned over to the custody of state health officials, according to police and airline officials.
“She wasn’t acting right, or normal, from the very beginning [of the flight],” said Scott T. Smith, a California man who was seated behind the woman and someone who appeared to be her traveling companion.
He said both women, who were sitting in the first-class section, looked and sounded apprehensive.
“I read it as: One of them is trying to get over the fear of flying … I could tell that one or both were uneasy with flying,” Smith said in a phone interview from Idaho Falls on Monday night.
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He initially put on noise-canceling headphones and then watched the movie “Passengers.” As the plane left the gate in San Francisco, he noticed the seat in front of him shaking back and forth, and he heard raised voices. But that commotion passed quickly.
Later in the flight, he saw two men jump up and run to the front of the plane. Passengers subdued the woman after she tried to open a cabin door.
“I could see her laying on the floor,” said Smith, who thought he saw someone laying on top of her or holding her down. “The flight staff were real calm. Everyone on the flight was quite calm.”
Boise Airport officials contacted police after getting reports of an “unruly passenger” from the operators of the flight, airport spokesman Sean Briggs said. Police were waiting at the gate as the flight landed.
The United flight was operated by SkyWest.
“SkyWest flight 5449, operating as United Express from San Francisco to Boise, landed safely in Boise after reports of a customer attempting to open the aircraft door,” said Layne Watson, a spokesperson from SkyWest, in a statement. “The customer was restrained and law enforcement officials met the flight at the gate, where all passengers safely deplaned. The unruly customer was held for questioning by law enforcement.”
The flight, which arrived at about 11:45 a.m., was on time and was not otherwise diverted, Briggs said.
Smith said he heard the woman rambling and repeating phrases over and over including: “God has all the data.” “I don’t have any data.” “We landed in Boise 15 minutes ago.” “For three years.”
“It’s just kind of odd,” said Smith, a veterinarian who works as a consultant for an animal health company. “I have no idea if she was on some sort of medication, and it wore off, or if she had a bad reaction. Certainly by all observations of mine, she was mentally unstable.”
He said the captain of the plane got on the intercom and thanked passengers for stopping the passenger.
“I was never that concerned,” Smith said. “People reacted immediately.”
No information about the woman has been released. She is in the custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said BPD spokeswoman Haley Williams.
Charges have been routed to the Ada County prosecutor for review, but nothing had been filed late Monday afternoon, Williams said. The FBI is also investigating.