An Alaskan man with a mission to end his life took control of a small passenger plane’s yoke and caused it to nosedive before the pilot could regain control and safely land the aircraft. A preliminary investigation indicates the eighteen year old got up from his seat on a flight from Bethel and Aniak, Alaska, and took control of the yoke. No barrier existed between the rest of the aircraft and the pilot and co-pilot seats. Barriers are not typical in this type of aircraft in Alaska. All five passengers and the pilot survived the incident and the man was arrested upon landing.
Trooper Jason Bohac said the teen tried ending his life and indicated he had spoken with behavioral health officials in the past but felt it hadn’t helped.
In an email, Austin McDaniel, a troopers spokesperson, said the man “had asked the pilot to fly the plane earlier during the flight and initially asked to sit in the unoccupied co-pilot seat. Both requests were denied by the pilot.”
In an affidavit, the pilot, “Joshua Kersch, said about 10 miles from Aniak, the man asked if he could fly the plane and Kersch refused. About five miles later, Kersch said he felt the yoke go forward and saw the man over the co-pilot seat pushing on the yoke. He said he thought the man was trying to point the plane toward the ground.”
Several passengers who spoke to Bohac said they feared for their lives. One passenger, identified as Alice Samuelson, told Bohac the man seemed to have anxiety before boarding the plane.
During the incident, she said a woman grabbed the man after the pilot pushed him away from the controls and that passengers held him down, according to the affidavit.
Another passenger described the man as being held in his seat while the pilot landed, the affidavit states.
Federal charges have not been filed against the man but a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Alaska said any federal charges would be determined by the outcome of the investigation.