An Oregon man tried to open an emergency exit on a Delta Air Lines flight so passengers could hear his take on COVID-19 vaccines, federal authorities said.
Michael Brandon Demarre, 32, was charged with threatening to interfere and interfering with flight crew during Friday’s flight from Salt Lake City to his home in Portland, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.
Witnesses said Demarre ripped off a plastic covering on the emergency exit door’s handle and forcefully pulled on it. A flight attendant then ordered him to stop and move to the rear of the aircraft, federal prosecutors said.
The man was ultimately restrained by the flight crew, but told authorities once on the ground in Portland that he orchestrated the scary in-flight disturbance so passengers would record him on video sharing his “thoughts on COVID-19 vaccines,” The Oregonian reported.
One passenger who filmed Demarre’s arrest said the incident occurred just 20 minutes after takeoff, according to The Register-Guard.
“The screeching of the wind and the change in pressure was felt by everyone,” the anonymous passenger told the newspaper. “One of the flight attendants miraculously happened to be right there and she was able to shut/latch the door.”
In the video of his arrest, Demarre yelled as many other passengers applauded as he was being taken off the plane, the Register-Guard reported.
“We’re all being lied to, wake up!” he said. “The Earth is bleeding, the international community hates the United States of America.”
Once subdued, flight attendants asked four other passengers to watch Demarre as he was restrained in a seat, according to an affidavit obtained by The Oregonian.
Several passengers said they heard a “loud air whooshing” noise as Demarre repeatedly yanked on the door handle, Assistant US Attorney Mira Chernick told a judge during his initial court appearance Monday.
“This was a very dangerous offense that endangered the lives and safety of the people on that plane and put many of them in a fearful situation,” Chernick told a judge.
The incident prompted an alert light to go off in the cockpit, according to the affidavit. Other passengers on the plane told authorities Demarre appeared to be having a mental health crisis during the flight — laughing and crying simultaneously at times, Chernick said.
Demarre, who is on probation for a 2020 DUI conviction, was ordered to be held pending a mental health evaluation. He’s set to return to court Friday, The Oregonian reported.
Demarre’s public defender said the accusations were “out of character” for her client, according to the newspaper.
In a statement to The Post, Delta Air Lines said it has “zero tolerance for unruly customers” who threaten the safety of staff and customers.
Delta CEO Edward Bastian recently sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for the creation of a national “no-fly list” for anyone convicted of in-flight disruptions.
“This action will help prevent future incidents and serve as a strong symbol of the consequences of not complying with crew member instructions on commercial aircraft,” Bastian wrote Garland on Feb. 3
The incident came just two days before an American Airlines passenger allegedly tried to storm into the cockpit during a flight from Los Angeles to Washington DC, prompting a flight attendant to bash him on head with a coffee pot while subduing him with other travelers.
Reports of unruly passengers surged 500 percent last year amid travelers who refused to don masks during the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Aviation Administration reported in June.
FAA statistics through Tuesday show 394 reports of unruly passengers thus far in 2022, including 255 related to face masks complaints. Travelers can face criminal charges and fines up to $37,000 per violation.