Limerick hero averts airline emergency

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by Alan Jacques

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clouds_660THE bravery of a quick-thinking County Limerick man prevented a major emergency aboard a flight from Hong Kong to Heathrow last weekend.

The Kilcornan native was returning home from holidays last Saturday morning when the frightening incident occurred just 15 minutes into the 12-hour flight.

The heroic farmer had to wrestle an “agitated” passenger to the ground after he apparently tried to break the seal on an emergency exit door.

The 48-year-old told the Limerick Post, ” The man wasn’t very co-operative with the flight attendants and wouldn’t stay in his seat. He didn’t appear to be drunk, but he could have been on some other substance or had mental issues, I don’t know. He wasn’t shouting or anything, he was very calm and quiet. That was almost more worrying. From my experience on the football field, you’d always be more wary of a fella who is quiet and eyeballing you rather than a fella that’s roaring and shouting.”

“He was very troublesome and wouldn’t put on his seatbelt when the signs came on. I was sitting three rows behind him and just happened to be the nearest passenger to him. He looked like he was trying to open the emergency door and I managed to wrestle him to the floor and other passengers and staff helped me restrain him.

“I’ve come up against bigger fellas during matches, he was a reserved type of fella,” the Kilcornan man said.

After the passenger was restrained and handcuffed in his seat, the flight continued to London Heathrow. However, the Limerick man revealed that he woke up half an hour after the first incident to find the same man was up out of his seat again and causing a disturbance. He again helped to restrain the man with the aid of a New Zealand and English passenger, before the man was moved to the front of the plane for the remainder of the flight.

“I was kind of dozing off to be honest. I didn’t get a chance to think about what happened. It was kind of like when you are watching an All-Ireland Final and you are on the edge of your seat and biting your nails. When you are in the thick of it, you don’t really think about it, but thankfully, all’s well that ends well,” he said.

Like all true heroes, the unassuming County Limerick man wanted to protect his true identity and asked the Limerick Post not to use his name.

Cllr Emmett O'Brien
Cllr Emmett O’Brien

However, local councillor Emmett O’Brien on hearing of the ‘air rage’ incident and the heroic role played by the Kilcornan man commented: “Knowing him so well I’m not remotely surprised that he acted with such selflessness and spirited away the would-be-assailant from doing serious damage and risking the lives of all the passengers on the flight.

“It’s typical of this ‘Cool Hand Luke’ local hero that he has downplayed what could have been a serious international tragedy”, Cllr O’Brien added.