Grant Heppes was en route to Las Vegas for a trade show on JetBlue Flight 191 today when the pilot of the aircraft had a mental breakdown, screaming about "Iran" and "Iraq" before being restrained by passengers
The co-pilot had to maneuver the pilot out of the cockpit, Heppes told Jalopnik, so passengers could restrain him. Here's his first-hand account.
Heppes (pictured below) is safely on the ground in Amarillo, where the plane was diverted. Passengers are currently being interviewed as JetBlue sends a plane from Long Beach, California to pick them up and take them to Vegas.
They were approximately two hours from Las Vegas when Heppes noticed the commotion. He was about halfway back in the plane and noticed a JetBlue employee walk from the front of the plane to the back and then to the front again.
"As he went back to the front I heard people yell 'Restrain him! Restrain him!,'" says Heppes.
Heppes was told the co-pilot noticed "something wasn't right" and somehow convinced the pilot to leave the cockpit. As soon as he did the co-pilot made an announcement to restrain him.
"When I saw him I didn't even think about it because I just thought it was a stewardess going to help [a passenger]. I didn't realize he was the problem."
When the pilot got to the front of the plane he attempted to get into the cockpit but was met by a group of large men one of the flight attendants had deputized to help subdue the angry crew member.
"He was screaming 'pray to God with me' and 'Iran, Iraq,'" says Heppes.
The pilot was large enough to need numerous men to restrain him. He was kicking around and flailing so hard another passenger thought he might break his arm.
An off-duty pilot on-board helped bring the plane to Amarillo and everyone made it safely to the ground.
"It was actually handled very well for the situation," says Heppes, who credits the JetBlue staff and passengers. "Everyone really helped out and were heroes."