Thu, Jul 20, 2006 - Page 1 News List

`Air rage' incident diverts CAL plane

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

A Kaohsiung Airport police officer, right, and a SWAT team member, left, escort a Vietnamese-American man identified as Danh Quinh Suot, center, from Kaohsiung International Airport yesterday. The man was arrested for misbehaving on a Taipei-bound China Airlines flight from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, forcing the plane to be diverted to Kaohsiung. The plane arrived in Taipei about two hours later than scheduled.

PHOTO: HUANG CHI-YUAN, TAIPEI TIMES

A China Airlines flight from Ho Chi Minh City to the US via Taipei was forced to land at Kaohsiung International Airport yesterday after a reportedly drunken passenger broke a window and attacked flight attendants.

In a statement, China Airlines said a Vietnamese-American man identified as Danh Quinh Suot, 32, assaulted attendants and broke a window next to a seat with his elbow, prompting the plane's captain to request that the flight be diverted for safety reasons.

According to Lee Chung-rong (李仲榮), deputy director of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, the captain sent out a distress signal indicating a hijack.

The procedure, Lee said, was appropriate for the occasion.

Danh was drunk, the airline said, adding that no other passengers were injured in the incident.

Upon the Airbus 330's arrival in Kaohiung, both Danh and his wife were taken off the plane by aviation police for questioning.

Danh was arrested for allegedly threatening aviation safety.

Aviation police at Kaohsiung airport said that they found medication used to treat mental illness among Danh's belongings while they were questioning him.

Police later took him to a local hospital for medical and psychological examinations. Danh was accompanied by representatives from the American Institute in Taiwan, Kaohsiung Office.

The initial investigation by police found that Dahn was mentally unstable when he broke an inside window pane.

They turned over the case to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office for further investigation.

Meanwhile, the China Airlines plane, flight 682, spent about two hours on the ground in Kaohsiung before continuing on to Taipei. It took off from Kaohisung around 5pm and arrived at the CKS International Airport at 5:51pm. The flight was supposed to have arrived at 3:15pm.

Family members of passengers were anxious and upset about the delay and complained that China Airlines had not immediately informed them about the incident and the diversion to Kaohsiung.

CAL spokesman Johnson Sun (孫鴻文) said the company regretted the inconvenience caused to the flight's passengers as well as the personnel in the Kaohsiung airport.

Sun emphasized that yesterday's diversion had been a flight safety issue.

"The average window is double-layered, so safety will not be threatened,'' he said.

He said passengers were not allowed to board flights if they were determined to be intoxicated or if they were mentally unstable, but airlines cannot stop someone from boarding if they do not show outward signs of impairment.

Fang Yueh-chiang (方粵強), director of incident investigation for the Aviation Safety Council, said the council would not investigate the incident.

"This was a case of an unruly passenger in the cabin," Fang said, "His behavior did not lead to a plane crash, so there is no need for us to investigate."

According to the Civil Aviation Act (民用航空法), passengers found guilty of affecting flight safety through violent measures or damaging a plane's facilities could face up to seven years in prison.

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