Written by Molly Schramm, WCPO digital content producer
A man on a Frontier Airlines flight out of CVG on Friday was arrested after it emergency landed in Atlanta when it was discovered he snuck two box cutters onboard, said the airline and TSA.
Before diverting to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport around 9:30 p.m. Friday, Flight 1761 was headed to Tampa International Airport in Florida.
In a statement sent to WFTS, WCPO’s sister station in Tampa, Frontier said that no passengers or crew were reported injured.
TSA said that after a search of the suspect and his belongings, agents found a second box cutter in his carry-on.
Alisza Dixon, a passenger on the plane, said it was a normal flight until there was a little more than an hour left until Tampa. She said that panic and gossip began among the other passengers.
Dixon said the passenger with the box cutter was seated four rows behind her. After deplaning, she said another passenger near him told her that he was mumbling to himself that he was going to stab people.
Ben Mutz, another passenger on the plane that spoke with ABC News, said he spoke with the person seated in the window spot next to the man after they deplaned. That passenger told Mutz that the man “flashed a box knife at me and said, ‘I want to kill or I want to stab people,'” Mutz told ABC News.
According to ABC News, eyewitnesses said several passengers — including military veterans and a former law enforcement officer — helped crew members subdue the man.
Larry Cumberbatch, a Navy veteran, told ABC News he was seated in the third row when a woman who was initially in the aisle seat next to the man reported seeing “some kind of knife” and was afraid for her safety. Flight attendants then asked those with any military or police background to switch seats with her or go to the back of the plane, and Cumberbatch said he volunteered.
Cumberbatch said the man went to the bathroom and when he returned, he confronted Cumberbatch in the aisle. Cumberbatch described it as a “showdown.”
“People back there, you could literally see they’re afraid,” Cumberbatch told ABC News. “So that’s why I stood there, to give them a calming presence and let this guy know there’s somebody watching, someone who you will have to deal with if you take it to the next level.”
Cumberbatch said that a former law enforcement officer calmly talked to the man during the emergency landing.
After they landed, Dixon said all of the passengers were instructed to leave their belongings and deboard the plane. She said they also had zero idea they were in Atlanta instead of Tampa, and she alongside others figured that out when they checked their phones.
“I don’t even know how to describe this,” Dixon said. “We just randomly landed in another state.”
Cumberbatch and an Army veteran remained on the plane while the former officer escorted the man with the box cutter down the aisle, Cumberbatch said. He also said when police officers arrived, the man with the box cutter “got agitated” and was given a warning before the former officer tackled him.
“In my mind, he was really the hero right at that moment,” Cumberbatch said.
Cumberbatch also said he spoke to FBI agents following police taking the man into custody.
Frontier said the other passengers on the flight were given hotel accommodations and all were rebooked on a flight that landed in Tampa on Saturday morning.
Police nor TSA have released the identity of the passenger.
TSA confirmed that blades are prohibited in the cabin, but they are allowed in checked luggage.
“TSA takes its role in transportation security very seriously,” said Patricia Mancha, a TSA spokesperson. “The situation with the Frontier flight is under investigation with the US Attorney’s Office, as they are the lead federal agency in this matter.”
TSA also said it began an internal review by viewing CCTV as well as airport security operations and processes.