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Man Faces Up To 20-Years in Federal Prison After Starting Fire On Delta Air Lines Flight

Man Faces Up To 20-Years in Federal Prison After Starting Fire On Delta Air Lines Flight

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A man has pleaded guilty to attempting to start a fire onboard a Delta Air Lines flight during an episode in which flight attendants even worried that he might attempt to open an emergency exit. Robert Vincent Allen of Pennsylvania had to be restrained and trussed up with zip ties by crew members after the April 2 incident which prompted an emergency diversion.

Allen was arrested by police after the Los Angeles to Detroit flight was forced to make an unscheduled stop in Denver and subsequently charged by the FBI with willfully setting fire to an aircraft. He now faces a prison sentence of up to 20-years in jail, as well as a fine of up to $250,000. Allen may also need to pay restitution to Delta Air Lines when he is sentenced in December.

Flight attendants noticed Allen “acting strangely” in the gate area at LAX before the flight but still allowed him to board where he then started “acting erratically” and looking around at other passengers. A crew member managed to get him seated for takeoff but as soon as the seat belt sign was extinguished, Allen stood up and started to move around the cabin.

Crew members described Allen’s behavior as “weird” but not abusive. He told the flight attendants that other passengers on the plane were “out to get him” and that a drug dealer was threatening him.

His behavior became so odd that when he asked to use the restroom, one flight attendant initially tried to stop him from entering the lavatory alone. That decision was overruled by the pilot in command and Allen ended up locked in the lavatory at the back of the plane for over 15 minutes.

A short time later the lavatory fire alarm was activated but Allen refused to open the door. Flight attendants forced entry and put out a fire that had been started in the toilet seat cover compartment. The Captain immediately diverted the flight to Denver international airport where it landed around 20 minutes later.

When interviewed by the FBI, Allen admitted deliberately lighting the fire but said he only did so in order to get the attention of the pilot because he didn’t think the flight attendants were taking his concerns seriously. Allen also said he had damaged a credit card so that he had a “sharp implement” in order to defend himself.

Allen was charged in a federal criminal complaint on April 2 and indicted by a federal grand jury on June 2. He pleaded guilty last Wednesday and will be sentenced on December 16.

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