Northern Ireland

'Tense passengers' moved children from man accused of endangering aircraft

Jeremiah Mathis Thede Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Jeremiah Mathis Thede, from California, denies a change of endangering an aircraft

Tense passengers moved children away from an American man accused of endangering an aircraft, a County Antrim court has heard.

Jeremiah Mathis Thede, from the Alameda in Berkeley, California, seemed "angry and annoyed" on board a flight that diverted to Belfast after staff became worried about his behaviour.

An attendant said the 42-year-old alarmed parents during the flight from Rome to Chicago on 20 June last year.

Mr Thede denies the charge against him.

He was arrested after the plane's captain decided to abort the United Airlines flight and land at Belfast International Airport after concerns were raised about Mr Thede's behaviour.

More than 200 passengers had to wait 23 hours before resuming their journey to the US.

Flight attendant Carlos Pagan told Antrim Crown Court on Thursday that Mr Thede appeared "not happy" and "kind of intimidating".

He said the accused approached crew members to demand crackers while they were preparing for take-off.

"There was tension, people were nervous," Mr Pagan said.

"I felt people being nervous and kind of looking around, what was going on, and also I would say adrenalin was high as there were families with kids, the fathers were protective."

Mr Thede stood in the aisle, looking for something in his bags and made repeated visits to the toilet, the court heard.

Mr Pagan added: "I heard a guy told him to cut it off and he said: 'I am not afraid of you.'"

Sheila Wire, who was in charge of the flight crew, said she had received complaints from passengers before advising the pilot to ground the aircraft.

"I was concerned that they were so concerned," she said.

"The mothers moved their kids from that side. The lady behind him... put her children by the window."

The trial continues.

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