Two days after a flight to Yellowknife was diverted to Fort McMurray because of what the RCMP described as an “unruly passenger,” another passenger who says he first restrained the man says he saw signs early on in the flight that a situation may develop.
Thirty-year-old Jordan Mernickle, of Yellowknife, was on WestJet flight 3177, which was headed to Yellowknife from Calgary on Monday. Mernickle said he and his family were returning home after attending a wedding in Ontario.
According to Mernickle, a man on the flight started making disparaging remarks about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Yellowknife early on in the flight and became confrontational with a flight attendant while trying to order alcohol.
“He eventually got up and he went to a row in front of him and there was a girl sitting there and he kind of leaned right over and was kind of staring at her and I was like, ‘What’s going to happen?'” Mernickle told Global News on Wednesday.
He said the man then walked back to his seat and began throwing his cellphone around in what appeared to be an attempt to smash it. Later, as most passengers were sleeping, Mernickle said the man walked past him and a girl next to him who was sleeping with a jacket covering her face.
“Then he storms right at her… knocks the jacket off her face, and she just looks up and is like, ‘What in the hell,’ and she looks at me and the guy was just like… angrily staring at her.”
At that point, Mernickle said two flight attendants put the man in his seat and asked Mernickle what happened. They asked if he could help restrain the man and walk him to the back of the plane, which he did with the help of another man. The man was kept still in a chair with restraints.
Mernickle said the plane then began to land and a voice over the intercom said the plane was landing in Fort McMurray so police could escort the restrained man off the plane.
The RCMP arrested the man and removed him from the plane but Mernickle said another incident almost developed and two more men left the plane on their own accord.
“There was two other guys in front of me that were getting really wasted and just being belligerent, trying to argue with the stewardesses,” he said. “They even wouldn’t let me pass by whenever I tried to use the washroom. They eventually got really angry and just said, ‘Just let us off the plane then.’
Mernickle told Global News he wasn’t afraid of the man he helped to restrain but was frustrated by the situation.
“Being in Yellowknife we have to deal with people like this all the time, roaming the streets and whatnot.”
The RCMP has not said if charges will be laid in the case but said they believe the man they arrested was intoxicated. WestJet has declined to talk about the incident “due to the involvement of law enforcement, as well as the privacy of our guests.”
Transport Canada is now investigating what happened.