Flight attendant on Delta flight broke wine bottle over man's head, FBI agent says

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A wine bottle broken on his head did not faze a man who lunged for an exit door and fought with other passengers on an international Delta Air Lines flight to Beijing, the FBI said.

Authorities said Joseph Daniel Hudek IV, 23, of Tampa, Florida forced a Seattle to Beijing flight to return to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Thursday when he tried to open an exit door before getting into a scuffle with flight attendants and other passengers.


FBI special agent Caryn Highley  said in a probable cause statement on Friday that during the disturbance, Hudek punched one flight attendant twice in the face and struck at least one passenger in the head with a red dessert wine bottle. As the struggle continued, a flight attendant grabbed two wine bottles and hit Hudek over the head with each – breaking at least one of them.

According to one flight attendant, "Hudek did not seem impacted by the breaking of a full liter red wine bottle over his head, and instead shouted, 'Do you know who I am?' or something to that extent," the complaint said.

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Eventually several passengers were able to hold Hudek down long enough to place zip-tie restraints on him, Highley wrote.

Hudek, who appeared in U.S. District Court on Friday, wearing a beige jail uniform and sporting a scrape or bruise below his right eye, was charged with interfering with a flight crew, which carries a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is expected to remain in custody at least until a detention hearing on July 13.

He did not speak during the hearing. His attorney, Robert Flennaugh II, declined to comment.

One flight attendant and a passenger were taken to a hospital after suffering severe facial injuries, authorities said. Perry Cooper, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle, described the injuries as non-life-threatening.

Highley said Hudek was sitting in the first row of the Boeing 767's first-class section. He asked a flight attendant for a beer before takeoff, and was served one, but he exhibited no sign of being intoxicated and ordered no other alcoholic drinks, the attendant told authorities.

About an hour into the flight, while the plane was over the Pacific Ocean northwest of Vancouver Island, Hudek went into the forward restroom. He came out quickly, asked the attendant a question, and went back in, the agent wrote.

When he came out again two minutes later, he suddenly lunged for the exit door, grabbed the handle and tried to open it, Highley wrote. Two attendants grabbed him, but he pushed them away, and the attendants signaled for help from several passengers and notified the cockpit by telephone, the complaint said.

It was then that Hudek punched one flight attendant and struck a passenger with wine bottle.

Hudek was put in a head-lock by a passenger before he was restrained, Highley wrote. Even then he remained combative, she said, and it took multiple passengers to keep him restrained until the plane landed and Port of Seattle police arrested him.


Hudek had been traveling on a "dependent pass," the complaint said. Such passes allow certain relatives of Delta employees to fly standby.

Passenger Dustin Jones told KIRO-TV that he saw the man being rolled into the terminal in a wheelchair after the plane landed.

"He started yelling for help," Jones said. "And so he turned the wheelchair over in the middle of the airport, screaming for people to help him, just being belligerent."

The flight left for Beijing later Thursday night.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.