It’s a bad idea to have an air rage-filled meltdown on an airplane full of Marines.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Bell was one of four active-duty Marines and two retired leathernecks Marines who were called on to restrain an out-of-control passenger Tuesday on a United Airlines flight from Honolulu to Tokyo.
"We were about an hour-and-a-half into the flight and then I heard somebody screaming toward the back of the plane," Bell told Marine Corps Times. "I could just hear somebody yelling: 'Shut up, shut up! Don't talk to me!'"
Bell, who is assigned to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1 in Okinawa, Japan, said he didn’t think much of it until he heard the person yell, "You’re not God." he said. That’s when Bell jumped up and looked toward the back of the plane to see the passenger in the middle of the aisle yelling and screaming.
Media reports have described the passenger as a 72-year-old man from South Korea, but Bell said he would have judged the man to be was in his 50s.
Marine Maj. Troy Cronbaugh, of Marine Corps Installations Command, rounded up Bell, who stands 6 feet 3 inches tall, and the other biggest men on the plane to help the flight attendants subdue the passenger, Bell said. At first, the flight attendants said they had things under control, but within minutes the situation changed.
"The flight attendants explained that they had talked to the pilot and the pilot felt like the individual was a security risk and they wanted us to restrain him," Bell explained.
He Bell and another Marine on board came up with a plan to cuff the . The other Marine would put flexi cuffs supplied by the airline on the passenger’s wrists and Bell would cuff the man’s legs with flexi cuffs supplied by the airline.
At first, the passenger seemed to cooperate when he was shown the cuffs, Bell said.
"He said: 'Oh bracelets, oh, OK. Bracelets. Yeah, I like bracelets. I'll put them on.'" Bell said.
But when Bell put the cuffs on the passenger's ankles, the man went "berserk," Bell said.
"He said: 'Hey, I'll kill you! I'll kill you! I'll kill you!'" said Bell, who tried to calm the passenger down.
The Marines tried to help the man up, Bell and the others tried to help the man up, but he started and screaming as if he was in pain, so they put him back on the floor. "He said, ‘OK, ok, I’m good now, I’m good now’" Bell said. "Then said: ‘OK, this guy is a joke. Let’s get him in the seat right now.’"They decided to try to carry the man back to When Bell and the other five men carried the passenger back to his seat, but all hell broke loose.
"He started trying to trying head butt me [and] ram me with his head," Bell recalled. "As he was doing that, he began to spit at that same time too."
Bell grabbed the cover for a seat's headrest and held it up against the passenger's mouth and yelled at the man to stop spitting. The passenger promptly began trying to bite Bell.
When they finally got the man to his seat, he went limp and refused to sit up, Bell said. "So somebody else just yelled: 'Hey, stop acting silly! Sit up right now so we can put your seatbelt on you!"
After the passenger finally sat up and was fastened into his seat, Bell said one of the current and former Marines gave the man a warned him to keep ing that kept him quiet as the plane returned to Honolulu, Bell said.
"He said: 'Listen buddy; you're scaring these kids; you're scaring the people on this plane and you're scaring the crew. You need to stop. If you don't stop, this big guy over my shoulder, he's gonna get you.'
"And the guy looked over his shoulder and he saw me and he said: 'OK, OK, I'm good now, I'm good.'"