Passenger Tries to Open Emergency Exit Door on Alaska Airlines Flight While Plane in Air, FBI Says

Alexander Herrera was restrained by passengers and crew until the plane landed.

ByABC News
May 27, 2013, 1:17 PM

May 27, 2013— -- A passenger who made "unusual" statements and tried to open an airplane door in-flight today was subdued by passengers and crew members until the plane landed in Portland, Ore. He was taken into custody, federal officials said.

Alexander Michael Herrera, 23, was arrested by FBI agents at Portland International Airport on a charge of interfering with a flight crew on Alaska Airlines Flight No. 132 from Anchorage to Portland. He was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center and is expected to make his first appearance in federal court on Tuesday, according to federal officials.

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Authorities said the incident unfolded as the flight, with 137 passengers onboard, began its descent into the Portland area.

Passengers and crew members who were interviewed by Port of Portland Police officers said Herrera made unusual statements before he tried to open the door. But federal officials declined to elaborate on what Herrera might have said.

Ryan Oelrich told ABC News he was sleeping onboard the flight when he awoke to a "loud hissing noise" and "lots of screaming."

"My first thought was that the plane must be going down, but then I heard someone screaming to stop him, take him down," he said. "I looked behind me and in the exit row was a very large gentleman who was attempting to open the exit row door."

Oelrich said passengers seated near Herrera in Row 17 jumped on him and held him down until flight attendants could bring restraints.

Alaska Airlines said the emergency door on the 737-800 is equipped with a lock to prevent it from being opened in-flight.

The airline said crew members did an excellent job restraining Herrera, who sat calmly until the flight landed and he was handed over to federal authorities.

Oelrich, who is a frequent business traveler, said he was thankful his fellow passengers stepped in to defuse the situation.

After Herrera was led off the plane in handcuffs, the passengers who held him down exited next, Oelrich said.

"The entire plane, to the best of our ability, gave them a standing ovation for what they did," he said. "I'm so very thankful there are people out there who are willing to step up and do their part."

ABC News' Matt Hosford contributed reporting.