Delta Flight 462 was delayed for hours after a male passenger forced open a cabin door while the plane was taxiing. He and his companions slid their way out of the plane.
By Ed Shanahan
Brian Plummer was sitting toward the back of a Delta Air Lines flight readying to depart La Guardia Airport on Monday when, he said, he noticed a man and a woman with a large service dog nearby.
The Atlanta-bound plane was not completely full, Mr. Plummer said, and the couple changed seats several times.
The man and woman never did settle in, and as Flight 462 began to taxi out to a runway, the man stood up, ignoring a flight attendant’s order to sit, saying that he had post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Plummer said.
A short time later, Mr. Plummer said, he felt the plane shudder to a stop. It was not immediately clear to him why, but the flight crew eventually told the passengers what had happened.
The man had forced open a cabin door, activating an emergency slide, and then he, his female companion and their dog slid their way out of the plane, officials said. They were taken into custody a short time later, officials said.
On Tuesday, the authorities identified the passengers who activated the slide as Antonio Murdock, 31, and Brianna Greco, 23, both of Florida.
Mr. Murdock was charged with criminal mischief, a felony, and reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, according to a complaint filed in Queens Criminal Court. He also faces a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass, as does Ms. Greco, officials said.
Both were released, Mr. Murdock after an arraignment, officials said. His next court date is in February.
Neither Mr. Murdock nor Ms. Greco could be reached on Tuesday, and a lawyer for Mr. Murdock did not return a call seeking comment.
The dog, an 8-month-old female named Rain who weighs about 60 pounds, was at Animal Care Centers of NYC’s shelter in Brooklyn on Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. Ms. Greco was expected to retrieve the dog on Wednesday, officials said.
It was not the first time a panicky passenger has pulled such a maneuver at a New York-area airport, but neither Delta, the F.A.A. nor the Port Authority, which operates La Guardia, could say on Monday just how unusual it was for someone to make such an escape.
“This doesn’t happen every day at the airport,” Ms. Valens said.
Mr. Plummer said he had noticed Mr. Murdock standing after the plane left the gate. “They seemed really nice,” Mr. Plummer said of the couple.
Mr. Murdock told a flight attendant that he could not sit down because of his post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Plummer said.
“If I sit down, I’ll freak out,” Mr. Murdock said, according to Mr. Plummer.
The flight attendant again asked Mr. Murdock to take his seat, and again he refused, Mr. Plummer said. Instead, he began to walk toward the front of the plane, getting far enough that Mr. Plummer lost sight of him.
According to the complaint, a flight attendant had noticed Mr. Murdock and Ms. Greco walking through the plane, and had heard Mr. Murdock say, “I need to get off the plane.” She also heard him say that he was going to “pop the door” and that he would “spazz out” if he did not get off.
The flight attendant said Mr. Murdock pushed past her and opened an “emergency exit” door, the complaint says. At that point, she saw the slide deploy and watched as Mr. Murdock picked up the dog and exited via the slide, followed by Ms. Greco, the complaint says.
The plane, which had been scheduled to depart shortly before 10 a.m., returned to the gate, where the remaining passengers “deplaned normally and were accommodated on alternate flights,” a Delta spokeswoman said. (Mr. Plummer said his departure was delayed several hours.)
No one was injured in the episode, officials said. A Delta maintenance manager told the authorities that the force exerted when such a slide deploys “could have a serious physical impact on people or property” in its path, the complaint says.
The most famous example of an unauthorized sliding exit occurred 10 years ago at Kennedy International Airport, with a JetBlue flight attendant who said he had been involved in a dispute with a passenger.
In that instance, after announcing his intentions over the plane’s public address system, the flight attendant activated an emergency slide, slid down to the tarmac and threw his tie to the ground as he walked away.
More recently, a traveler aboard a Florida-bound flight at Newark Liberty International Airport fled through an emergency exit and down an inflatable slide while the plane was still at the gate in February 2018, according to WNBC.
When officers arrived to arrest him, the man was yelling that he did not belong on the plane because it was not his flight, the television station said.
Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.