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The BBC's Toby Sealey at Gatwick Airport
"Captain William Hagan looked drawn and exhausted"
 real 56k

Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 10:34 GMT
'Cockpit terror' jet arrives home
Photograph of intruder taken by passenger
Six crew and passengers were injured in the incident
The British Airways jet that almost crashed after a madman stormed the cockpit has arrived back at Gatwick with some of the crew members on board.

Six BA crew and passengers were injured on Friday after a passenger on Flight BA2068 to Nairobi grabbed the pilot's controls and caused the plane to nose-dive suddenly.


I could hear the pilot screaming

Clarke Bynum, passenger

Passengers screamed, fearing for their lives, as the jumbo carrying 398 people plunged several thousand feet before the intruder could be restrained.

The man has been named by Nairobi police as 27-year-old Kenyan Paul Kefa Mukonyi.

Captain William Hagan, his two co-pilots and other crew members were taken for a full de-briefing after they arrived at Gatwick Airport at 0455GMT on Saturday, before being allowed to go home.

Capt Hagan, who said the attacker "looked like Mike Tyson from behind", told BBC News 24: "I did what I had to do."

The 53-year-old pilot earlier said the plane was within seconds of flipping over and crashing if the intruder, believed to be mentally ill, had not been overpowered.

Captain William Hagan's wife and children were also on the plane
Captain William Hagan's wife and children were also on the plane
Capt Hagan and his co-pilot Richard Webb, 35, restrained the man with the help of business class passengers as another co-pilot Phil Watson, 38, regained control of the aircraft.

The captain is said to have initially put his finger in the man's eye in order to pull him back.

One of the passengers who rushed to help was 39-year-old Clarke Bynum, a former basketball player from the US.

"I could hear the pilot screaming and you could hear a tussling match going on in there and he was hollering 'help,"' Mr Bynum told a US radio station.

"I was able to pull him off and from there we got him to the ground and the pilot was able to get control of the plane."

Injured

Six BA crew and passengers were later treated in hospital for cuts, strains and a broken ankle suffered during the incident.

Capt Hagan, who comes from Glasgow and had his wife and two children on board, was bitten on the ear and finger in the struggle and the intruder suffered an eye injury.

The plane, which had left Gatwick at 2300GMT on Thursday eventually landed at Nairobi where the intruder was arrested by Kenyan police.

Photograph of intruder taken by passenger
The intruder is believed to be mentally ill
Mukonyi was taken to Nairobi Hospital and sedated. He is currently being held under guard and being examined by doctors.

A police spokesman said no decision would be taken on whether or how to charge him until after the New Year.

The incident happened as the plane cruised five miles above Sudan - six hours into the eight-and-a-half hour flight.

Passengers, who included singer Bryan Ferry, described the terrifying moments when they thought they were going to die.

Benjamin Goldsmith, who was on board with his sister Jemima Khan, wife of the former Pakistani cricket captain Imran Khan, said sleeping passengers were woken by the sound of screaming.

'Grown men screamed'

"The plane stopped diving and went into another dive at a really weird angle going down to the left and basically very, very steep, violent shuddering, and then the engines cut out altogether and there was total silence."

The cabin lights went out and oxygen masks dropped before the pilots regained control after about 20 seconds, he said.

American Todd Angstrom, 41, from Portland, Oregon, was travelling to Kenya with his wife and two daughters to do voluntary work.

BA information
UK: 0845 604 0172
Other: +44 208 283 9677
He said: "When the pilot came on the tannoy he was breathless.

"He said that a madman had tried to take control of the plane and crash it."

Mike Street, director of operations and customer relations at BA, said the airline was very proud of the flight crew.

He added that several were reluctant to get straight back on a plane after their nerve-wracking ordeal.

The incident follows a similar attack in July 1999 when the captain of an All Nippon Airways jumbo jet carrying more than 500 people was stabbed to death when a 28-year-old man burst into the cockpit during a flight.

The attacker then briefly took over the controls, putting the Boeing 747 into an unscheduled descent, before being wrestled to the ground by the co-pilot and three other crew members.

BA issued contact numbers for relatives. In the UK it is 0845 604 0172, and internationally it is 44 208 283 9677.

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See also:

29 Dec 00 | UK
Security in the skies
06 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Call for air rage treaty
01 Apr 99 | UK
Spotlight on air rage
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