A man has been arrested on suspicion of allegedly biting the ear off a fellow passenger onboard a United Airlines flight to Miami. John Yurkovich, 45, is currently being held on a bond of $50,000 at the Al Cannon Detention Center in South Carolina on charges of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine while the FBI continue their investigation into the inflight melee.
According to the arrest report, Yurkovich assaulted fellow passengers during Tuesday morning’s United Airlines flight 728 was Newark to Miami. Yurkovich was trussed up with cable ties during the incident and the pilots made an emergency landing in Charleston and airport police hauled him off the plane.
One of the victims was found with a laceration to his ear according to a preliminary report although WCSC reports that the victim’s ear was bitten off. A second victim may have sustained a broken nose while a third passenger was allegedly punched in the face by Yurkovich.
Witnesses claim Yurkovich became very agitated after returning from the restroom and was restless and “bouncing around” in his seat. Yurkovich asked a flight attendant for water and then apparently retrieved some pills from his carry-on in the luggage bin.
When he sat back down, he started to scream and thrash around and struck out at the victim who was sitting next to him. The victim’s glasses were broken and other passenger jumped into the fray to restrain Yurkovich.
Police found Yurkovich with his hands zip-tied behind his back and a passenger who identified themselves as a physician said he had jabbed Yurkovich’s buttocks with a shot of Benadryl to act as a sedative.
A white crystal substance that tested positive for methamphetamine was found in Yurkovich’s pocket leading to his initial arrest. The FBI is investigating the assault allegation but no criminal charges have yet been filed.
In a statement, United Airlines confirmed Tuesday’s flight 728 had to divert due to a “disruptive passenger” with a spokesperson going on to say that “law enforcement officials met the aircraft upon landing.”
Earlier this week, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) administrator Steve Dickson said he would extend the agency’s zero-tolerance policy on disruptive passengers saying there were still too many reports of disruptive passengers aboard U.S.-registered passenger planes.
Since late December, U.S. airlines have reported over 500 cases of unruly passengers despite tough new enforcement rules and the FAA is currently actively investigating 450 cases.
Photo Credit: United Airlines / Al Cannon Detention Center
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.