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911 calls show passengers' fear during flight attendant's rant

By Mike M. Ahlers
updated 5:25 AM EDT, Wed March 14, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Flight attendant reportedly suffered mental breakdown on American Airlines flight
  • Three passengers called 911, asked dispatchers for help
  • 'They're talking over the radio about crashing our plane,' said one caller
  • No charges have been filed against the flight attendant, local and federal officials said

Washington (CNN) -- For several fear-filled minutes last Friday, three passengers on board American Airlines flight 2332 in Dallas called emergency dispatchers to report a flight attendant's apparent meltdown, asking for help and trying to make sense of her strange rant.

The flight, which was on the ground, never took off, and no passengers were hurt.

But the 911 calls, released Tuesday, show the mutual confusion of the callers and the 911 dispatchers as they tried to piece together information, which was sparse on both sides of the phone line.

"We're on flight 2332 and, um, they're talking over the radio about crashing our plane," the first caller, a woman, told the emergency dispatcher.

Flight attendant removed after rant
Attendant outburst called 'demonic'

"OK, who is talking about crashing your plane?" the dispatcher asked.

"The attendants, over the PA," the caller said. "Please help us."

Obviously perplexed, and wanting to confirm the bizarre report, the dispatcher repeated the information.

"You're currently on board the flight, and the attendants are announcing over the PA system..."

"Yes," the caller interjected.

"...that they're going to crash the plane?" the dispatcher asked.

"Yes," the caller said.

"Did they say why?"

"No," the caller answered.

The dispatcher implored the caller not to hang up, asked for her name and phone number, and asked precisely what the flight attendant said.

"Her specific words were, 'This plane is not going to take off before it crashes,'" the passenger said.

A second female passenger called, and the dispatcher told her help was on the way.

"Listen, we've got people that are coming to you. I need you to give me some information so you can help me fill them in, OK?" the dispatcher said. "(You are) going to be OK. As long as that plane doesn't take off, you are still fine. You are still on the ground, right?"

The passenger confirmed the plane was still on the ground and said a passenger in the back of the plane had just gone up front.

"OK, don't be alarmed. He may be a sky marshal," the dispatcher said. "They fly armed and they are in plainclothes. So don't be alarmed."

The man, it was later learned, was another passenger who helped detain the flight attendant.

The third 911 caller, a man, asked "Are you all aware of what's going on on flight 2332 right now?"

"It looks like they're physically restraining a flight attendant," he said. "She's lost it. People are helping out."

Finally, another call came from the airport control tower, saying the matter was nearing a resolution.

"Flight 2332 returning to the gate. Altercation on board. Fight being reported," the control tower official reported.

Friday morning's event at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport was a rare disruption blamed on a flight attendant, but did not appear to involve any criminal intent. Local and federal officials said they had not filed charges against the airline employee, adding to speculation she had suffered a mental breakdown.

One passenger later told CNN the flight attendant appeared confused even before the flight pulled away from the gate. The passenger said she overheard the flight attendant say she was bipolar and had not taken her medication. As the plane taxied towards the runway, the flight attendant made references to needing to perform "cross-checks," and then appeared to be attempting to reach the pilots.

Unable to reach the pilots, she announced on the plane's public address system that she was no longer responsible for the safety of the aircraft and that it might crash. Fellow crew members scuffled with the woman for control of the microphone, and passengers moved in to restrain her.

The flight attendant and a colleague were taken to a hospital for treatment, American Airlines said.

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