December 23, 2020 By Tom Hays, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — A Delta flight out of New York City was halted after a Florida couple travelling with a Great Dane puppy fled the aircraft with the pet using an emergency slide, an airline spokesperson and authorities said Tuesday.
The incident involving Antonio Murdock and Brianna Greco occurred on Monday as the jet was on a runway leaving for a flight from LaGuardia Airport to Atlanta, said the spokesperson, Morgan Durrant.
Witnesses reported seeing a panicky Murdock force open a cabin door and jump out using the emergency chute leading to the runway. He was quickly followed by Greco with the puppy in tow.
Murdock, 31, and Greco, 27, of Lake Worth, Florida, were taken into custody on charges including criminal mischief and trespassing, among others.
Murdock was released without bail at an arraignment on Tuesday, while Greco was released on a desk appearance ticket. The dog, who The New York Post reported was named Rain, was turned over to an animal shelter.
Outside court, Murdock said he was having a panic attack, the New York Post reported.
“I asked them three or four times to let me off,” he said. “They said they were stopping the plane and they never stopped the plane, and I got to the point where I was just feeling dizzy. I didn’t even know there was a slot to go down the slide. I just thought it was a regular door.”
A message was left with an attorney for Murdock.
Passenger Brian Plummer told The New York Times that before the couple exited the plane, the pair had changed seats several times on a flight that wasn’t full.
Murdock finally stood up and ignored a flight attendant’s order to take a seat for takeoff, telling the attendant that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, Plummer added.
“If I sit down, I’ll freak out,” the man said, according to Plummer.
According to court papers, the flight attendant told police she heard a similar comment by Murdock before he pushed past her toward an emergency exit. She then saw the man deploy the emergency exit and “pick up his dog and exit the plane by using the slide,” the papers say.
Security video captured the couple using the chute, the papers add.
The aircraft was forced to return to the gate where the remaining customers got off and were later put on alternate flights.
The incident recalled the 2010 case of Steven Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant who activated a chute during a tantrum on a plane landing at Kennedy Airport. He went on the public address system, swore at a passenger who he claimed treated him rudely, grabbed a beer and slid down onto the tarmac.
Slater was sentenced to a year of probation after completing a court-ordered treatment program.