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Delta flight from LAX diverted after off-duty employee allegedly makes ‘terroristic threats’

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By Alta Spells, Elizabeth Joseph and Ray Sanchez, CNN

An unruly passenger forced a Delta Air Lines flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta to land in Oklahoma City on Friday night, the airline said.

Crew members and passengers of Delta Flight 1730 subdued the man after he assaulted two flight attendants and, according to Oklahoma City police, said he was “going to take the plane down.”

It was the second Delta flight diverted because of a disruptive passenger in as many days.

The packed flight Friday night was about two hours away from its destination when an announcement on the intercom advised passengers to return to their seats and prepare to don their oxygen masks, according to passenger Benjamin Curlee, 29, who was seated in the rear.

A couple of minutes later, Curlee told CNN, the captain asked that “all able-bodied men please come to the front of the plane for an emergency.”

Curlee said he and a passenger next to him bolted from their seats but did not get very far.

“We got nowhere near because basically every man on the plane stepped up and was in the aisle,” Curlee said.

As they made their way to the front of the plane, Curlee said, a flight attendant said “the situation was under control” and asked them to return to their seats.

“It was very tense, very adrenaline fueled,” said Curlee, a media producer.

Once the plane landed, the unruly passenger was taken into custody and transported to a hospital with minor injuries, Oklahoma City Police Capt. Jermaine Johnson said.

Passengers had to leave the plane as bomb technicians searched and cleared the aircraft, according to Johnson.

Curlee said other passengers later described the man as “very chaotic, very weird” and “very incoherent.” A passenger sitting next to the man told Curlee “he felt very uncomfortable with the guy” who asked “a lot of very personal questions” such as his name and the spelling.

The plane remained in Oklahoma City for more than three hours, according to FlightAware and landed in Atlanta shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday.

The disruptive passenger was in the custody of the FBI. Criminal charges have been filed, according to Johnson. CNN has reached out to the FBI for additional information.

The Federal Aviation Administration has received around 2,900 reports of “unruly behavior by passengers” this year, FAA spokeswoman Maria Njoku said in a statement.

About 2,200 of those reports involved passengers “refusing to comply with the federal facemask mandate,” Njoko said. The FAA has identified “potential violations” in 446 cases and “initiated enforcement action” in 42 cases,” she added.

On Thursday, Delta Flight 1131 flight from Los Angeles to New York was diverted to Detroit Metropolitan Airport because of a disruptive passenger, according to Wayne County Airport Authority spokeswoman Lisa Gass.

Gass said it appeared the passenger “did not have any criminal intent” and may have been “suffering from a medical issue.” The passenger was cited for disorderly conduct.

On June 4, a passenger attempted to breach the cockpit of a Delta Air Lines flight from Los Angeles to Nashville, forcing the plane to make an emergency stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to officials. Another passenger and crew took down the man and held him until the plane landed.

The disruptive passenger was taken into federal custody, said Stephanie Kitts of Albuquerque International Sunport.

CNN’s Alec Snyder contributed to this report.

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