PITTSBURGH – A flight attendant was rude to passengers and instigated the confrontation with a traveler that led to his now-notorious slide down a plane's emergency chute at New York's Kennedy Airport and, ultimately, to his arrest, a pair of Pittsburgh women aboard the JetBlue flight said.
Marjorie Briskin, 53, told The Wall Street Journal for a story Thursday that Steven Slater blurted out an expletive during an otherwise normal conversation with a passenger over luggage just after the plane landed in New York from Pittsburgh.
A young woman asked Slater which overhead bin her bag was in, and the conversation quickly and unexpectedly turned nasty after Slater slung the expletive, Briskin told the newspaper.
"I didn't think she was rude in the least," Biskin, who said she was visiting New York for the first time, told the Journal. "It really blew my mind. It was so inappropriate."
Slater hadn't emerged by Thursday from his home a few miles from Kennedy Airport in Rockaway Beach, Queens. His boyfriend, Kenneth Rochelle, said Slater was "at home, relaxing."
Rochelle called Slater a "lovely, classy, beautiful person" who in the past had been very patient with passengers having a bad day.
Slater had a "nice gash" on his head during the flight, and when it ended began flinging open the overhead bins and slamming them shut, Briskin told the newspaper. Another passenger noted that he spent much of the 90-minute flight slamming overhead bins and refrigerator doors in the galley.
"He looked disturbed at that point," Briskin said.
It's unclear exactly how Slater's face was cut, though he had it as passengers boarded in Pittsburgh and joked that "they're always trying to kill me around here," passenger Kati Doebler told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Another woman, 25-year-old Lauren Dominijanni, told the Journal that Slater was immediately rude to her after she boarded in Pittsburgh. She said he "rolled his eyes at me" when she asked for a wipe to clean up coffee someone spilled on her seat.
Dominijanni said that she had asked Slater for napkin to clean up the coffee and that he "rolled his eyes at me and said, 'What?' in a real rude manner."
She added that when she pointed to the spilled coffee, Slater responded, pointing to the gash on his head: "No! Maybe when we get in the air! I need to take care of myself first, honey!"
Passengers and authorities say Slater unleashed a profanity-laden tirade before deploying the emergency chute, sliding down and racing to his home in Queens. He is free on bail after being arraigned on criminal mischief and reckless endangerment charges.
His grand exit almost instantly turned him into an online hero, with many people saying they've dreamed of walking off the job in such a grand fashion. More than 100,000 people had joined a Facebook page supporting his actions.
Dominijanni, though, questioned the response.
"Why are they applauding what he did? I don't understand," she told the Journal. "There are people out there who are dying for a job. I'm glad he's gone because someone can step in and do a much better job."
Slater's ex-wife, Cynthia Susanne, came to his defense Thursday, calling him a consummate flight attendant who would always act in the most appropriate manner.
Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America," Susanne said she did not believe some passengers' suggestions that Slater started the confrontation on Monday, when he exited the parked plane by the emergency chute at New York's Kennedy Airport.
She said Slater was extraordinarily tolerant and patient and added she had not yet spoken to him about the confrontation on the Pittsburgh-to-New York flight.
They have a son together.