Complaint: Unruly passenger who caused jet to be diverted threw items on floor, kicked people

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – An unruly passenger who caused a New York-bound jet to be diverted to Pittsburgh threw items from his carry-on onto the floor, accused a flight attendant of being an FBI agent and kicked people who tried to subdue him, according to a criminal complaint.

Steven Pectol, 40, of Mapleton, Utah, faces a detention hearing Friday before a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh to determine whether he’ll remain jailed. A criminal complaint, unsealed Wednesday, charges him with a federal crime of interfering with a flight crew and details the bizarre behaviour on the red-eye flight from Phoenix that was diverted to Pittsburgh International Airport on Oct. 11.

Pectol was on US Airways Flight 632 when he began throwing his belongings, talking to himself and heading toward the cabin door, the complaint said. Passengers helped flight attendants subdue Pectol until he could be placed in plastic handcuffs and his legs restrained with a seat belt used to demonstrate safety at the beginning of the flight, according to the complaint.

“Pectol continued to resist and violently kick at those who were attempting to restrain him,” the complaint said.

Federal public defender Thomas Livingston didn’t immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh said Pectol has been in custody since the plane’s emergency landing at about 4:35 a.m.

In the complaint, a passenger and flight attendant describe Pectol’s behaviour.

After grabbing items from his carry-on bag and throwing them on the floor of the plane, Pectol refused to sit down and was saying “weird things,” the passenger said, according to the complaint.

Among other things, Pectol told a flight attendant, “You’re with the FBI and here to get me and you’re a bad person,” the complaint said.

Eventually, “Pectol stated that he wanted to go outside and smoke, and got up and started pacing,” the passenger said. Pectol went into a bathroom, then walked to the front of the plane, “bumping into people and becoming very unstable,” the complaint said.

Flight attendants tried to stop Pectol when he headed for the cabin door and summoned passengers to help subdue him, the complaint said. Pectol kicked one passenger and spit on another, the complaint said.

The charge Pectol faces carries up to 20 years in prison.


This story has been corrected to show the criminal complaint was unsealed, not filed, Wednesday.