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August 10th, 2010
05:58 AM ET

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Flight attendant charged with opening emergency evacuation chute

From Susan Candiotti, Laura Batchelor and Jesse Solomon, CNN

New York (CNN) - Police arrested a flight attendant Monday suspected of triggering an emergency escape chute on a plane parked at a JFK Airport terminal, a spokeswoman for the district attorney said.

Steven Slater was arrested at his home and charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and criminal trespass, said Helen Peterson at the Queens District Attorney's Office.

The incident took place just after the Jet Blue flight landed when a passenger stood to remove a bag from the overhead bin while the plane was still taxiing, a law enforcement source with direct knowledge said. A flight attendant exchanged words with the passenger, and the conversation escalated.

Slater picked up the intercom and used expletives directed at the passengers, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation. It is not clear exactly what was said on the intercom. The source said that when the plane at stopped at the gate, Slater then grabbed some beer from the beverage cart before deploying the emergency slide and using it to leave the plane.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that it "appears" the flight attendant quit his job in a very dramatic way.

"I know the facts that have been related to me - the plane was taxiing in, some passenger got up to take their bag down, the steward - flight attendant - approached, told him to not do that," said Kelly. "He called him an expletive and apparently hit him or pushed him in some way. The story got on the radio based on a statement that 'I've been doing this for twenty years and I'm out of here.'"

"It's a strange way to quit, let's put it that way," he said. "I don't think he'll be able to come back."

The law enforcement source said that Port Authority police did not learn about the incident for about 20 to 25 minutes after it took place. Jet Blue public affairs would not respond to that claim.

The airline also would not confirm any details of the incident but said that the evacuation slide was deployed on a plane that had parked at the gate after arriving from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The identity of the passenger involved in the altercation has not been confirmed.

As a rule, passengers are required to stay in their seats with their seatbelts fastened until the pilot has reached the gate and gives the all clear sign.

Peterson said the second degree criminal mischief and first degree reckless endangerment charges are felonies that could land Slater in jail for up to seven years. The criminal trespass charge and two other lesser mischief and endangerment charges are misdemeanors.

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soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Manish

    He's is a hero,he did wat he could in this possible situation,if i would have been in his place i would have thrown out the passanger out the moving plane or would have broken someteeths... Its hard to controls anger,but one who controls it win the situation.He did it and he won.

    I m sure that passanger will not feel that attenandant are not animals they are there to support them.If treated like friends they can make the whole journey memorable or else.. you'll end up remembering they journey as like this..

    August 14, 2010 at 2:28 am |
  2. Susan B. Hill

    Mr. Slater is my new hero!

    August 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
  3. David Kramer

    This guy faces up to 7 years in prison? You have to be kidding me! We have rapists and drug dealers that dont even end up in prison. This guy went off at his work place, which happens to be located in a tube. Many people go off at work everyday. What happens to them? They get fired. Sorry bud, its your last day at work in my opinion. Grabbing two beers and going down a slide is not a crime, its hiarious!!! Thanks to people like him, stand up comics get new material everyday. Thanks CNN.

    August 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  4. john

    wow,i am so surprised about all the support mr. poster child for anger management is getting.For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction or over reaction in his case .i dont think he is a hero at all more like a zero.

    August 11, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  5. Steven ( FLIGHT ATTENDANT)

    I hate to admit this, but the traveling public has become obsessed with rude behavior. They throw dirty diapers in the isle; male passengers ask obviously pregnant flight attendants to lift the bags and then shout profanity at them when they are unable to do; passengers place their wet toes on the headrest of the seat in front of them and then get angry when asked to remove them due to the intrusion of space on others, and the foul odor of their feet; they clip their toe nails while seated next to other passengers; make requests for condoms (no exaggeration); many refuse to say thank or please for anything requested or given to them; passengers often disrespect the guidelines prescribed by the FAA and endanger others by moving around on the aircraft when being told that it is unsafe to move around; and they place their unsanitized hands on items of the beverage carts and take whatever they want without ask seeking permission.

    Because many amenities are offered as a courtesy, the passengers often speak in a very demeaning and disrespectful manner and feel that they are entitled to do so. As I flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, I’m not surprised that he reached a breaking point. I’m not saying that he should have blown the slide but I understand how the harassment and rudeness of the passengers can wear the resistance of one down after a period of time. All of the airlines really need to step- up and do more to manage the disrespectful and rude behavior of the passengers. Oh yes, the “only” passengers that say “please” and “thanks” on an ongoing basis are the children; that has always been very interesting to me.

    I wish the best for Steven. There are two sides to this story and abuse that he has probably endured hasn’t been fully exposed. I pray that someone comes to his rescue. My prayers are definitely with him.

    August 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  6. mac stump

    I think it was Johnny Paycheck who sang "Take This Job and Shove It" not David Allan Coe.

    August 11, 2010 at 9:47 am |
  7. art

    Hmmmm

    Have we lost sight of what the criteria for being a hero consists of? Quick question: Who best fits the criteria; John Lewis, who walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama for a peoples civil rights, knowing full well he would be physically abused, and was, or this Slater guy who exited an airplane with a beer in his hand when he decided the going had just gotten too tough?

    I sense that America will never have arrived until we, as a people, have fully discerned the answer to the question.

    August 11, 2010 at 8:50 am |
  8. Tanya

    While I understand that the Steven Slater story is sensational, I wish CNN would use it to draw attention to society's increasingly hostile and/or entitled public behavior rather than overanalyze and exaggerate Slater's "anger". I don't believe that Slater had some wellspring of rage – I simply see him acting on a fantasy, that many of us in the service industry create as a means to deal with intolerable customers. We imagine how we will react when the indignity of the abuse we are subjected to finally outweighs the benefits of the job – and the cathartic value of such fantasies keeps us from so-called "bad behavior". Those who consider Slater "a folk hero" have dealt with the blatant acts of disrespect that can be perpetrated. As employees, we are held to a higher standard of decorum than those we are dealing with, summed up in the PR myth "the customer is always right" – which many interpret to mean that they have the right to behave irrationally, unreasonably and self-righteously. The approach being taken by CNN with the "anger experts" serves more to liken Slater to Omar Thornton, than to draw attention to the broader point of where we are as a society in our treatment of others. I suggest shadowing a cross-section of customer servants, so that rather than skewering someone who practiced impulse control for 20 years, you can highlight the sheer number people who do not understand the concept at all.

    August 11, 2010 at 8:02 am |
  9. melvin jones

    It Is perfectly clear to me that the flight attendant was NOT qualified to hold such a sensitive position In the first place.I have worked as a security officer for some 30 years and have been subjected to all kinds situations that required moe than just AVERAGE restraint In dealing with the public.I hope yhe airline company takes some kid of action against mr.hot head for doing the stupid thing that he did.what he did was NOT funny.Is this guy related to SILLY SARAH PALIN?

    August 11, 2010 at 6:18 am |
  10. Smith in Oregon

    Sean O'Keefe, 54, was leading EADS's (EAD.PA) bid to win a hotly contested competition to build a new generation of aerial tankers for the U.S. military, one of the biggest Pentagon contracts ever. The largest Military contract in American history and this man just happened to be 'fishing' with the known influence peddler, Alaskan former Senator Ted Stevens? This extremely remote 'fishing' lodge trip was likely further consolidating political favors and influence in order for Sean O'Keefe's company to obtain that huge Pentagon contract and not be evesdropped nor fear any wiretaps that would normally be following Ted Stevens.

    August 11, 2010 at 1:15 am |
  11. Kyle Matlack

    I wonder if this flight attendant will wakes up the next morning and says, "oh my God what have I done"? I am under arrest and unemployed in a bad economy.

    August 10, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  12. Tammy B

    I just wonder why the passenger's name that assaulted the flight attendant is not being splashed all over the media so everyone can know what a moron that person is. I work with the public and have for about the same amount of time as the flight attendant in this story. People have gotten worse and worse over the years. It is SO hard sometimes to hold my tongue. I think this guy said it for all of us who work with the public! I especially like that he grabbed a beer on his way out!

    August 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  13. Steve Vogel

    Dealing with the public has become very trying during these economic times. Check out people at supermarkets and anyone dealing with the public deserved combat pay. People, in my opinion, have become asses and dealing with them is very very hard. I give the guy credit for going off. he has to be fired but someone should give him a job.

    August 10, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  14. SZAK

    Arrest the offending Pasenger for not following Airline Safety Rules.
    I can't back-up the Flight Attendant actions, but if you look at the guy that set him off, maybe we would find that most other passengers would back up the Attendant. Not being there I could only guess this passenger is one of those selfish travelers that brings on large luggage bags and expects to jam everything into the overhead compartments Which force other travelers to stow small bags like laptops and handbags ( real carry on stuff) under the seat in front of them. Taking away from comfort in the form of leg space. These selfish travelers are the ones that feel they are "special travelers" using public transportation. That can't work. AIrlines Need to take a firm stand on carry-on bags, and maybe even reduce the size allowed. Those overhead compartments were for brief case type things and handbag type things. NOT luggage. If all travelers would obey in this manner, aircrafts would seat and deplane passengers quicker. If the offending passenger did not have large luggage in the compartment he was most likley acting swiftly to try and get off the plane faster BECAUSE of the selfish large luggage types, that slow the whole plane load of passengers down from getting off.

    The AIRLINES (all of them) need to take control of this carry-on issue in the name of public safety. Makes ya wonder how many folks would want to try and grab bags in an emergency? Blocking exit pathways.. huh? (even if they would drop the bag, a pathway might remain blocked) Thanks for allowing this post, Traveler Szak

    August 10, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  15. Daniel

    My story can't quite match Steven Slater's, but:

    I used to work for a certain car rental company.
    When I was suddenly let go for lateness and for using the computer to check my email, I was upset. I was mostly angry because the night manager had given me permission to use the computer but he was now denying that he had done so. I felt betrayed.
    I was told to sit down at the desk of the head supervisor. The supervisor asked me to sign a resignation letter that was placed in front of me.
    Instead, I crumpled the letter up into a ball and threw it across the desk, hitting him smack in the middle of the face.
    You should have seen the look on his face!
    I didn’t realize my aim was that good.
    Oh… and I never signed the letter.

    -DJ

    August 10, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  16. Dianne

    I have seen flight attendants being bullied, name called, called racial derogatory names because there isn't room for luggage, their isn't and aisle seat, and because the flight is late. I fly frequently for work. Obviously the airlines donot support their employees or customers would not behave this way. Why was the passenger not arrested also. This would help make the skies safe for all. I have read in the newspaper that passengers punch, slap, and spit on flight attendants as well.

    August 10, 2010 at 8:41 am |
  17. KAREN

    I understand how this guy feels. I am a Registered Nurse , patients don't have anymore respect for us than they had for him. That commercial that Johnson&Johnson has about how " nurses make a difference " is such a joke . I laugh each time I see this, why would a young woman want to go into nursing now? Guess it determines how much verbal and sometimes physical abuse you want to tolerate.

    August 10, 2010 at 8:40 am |
  18. James S. Morris

    Look, let us look at the condition of this gy ill mother, he is going through a lot and indiscipline individual gets on the plane being advise not to do what he did on the plane and he continue to do it to the extend that he struck the flight attendant on the head is annoying and tempting and so whatever actions against this gy there should also be some actions against the passanger order than that situation of such will always occur cause flight attendance are human being no matter how much training one has. This should be the beginning of another era for passanger discipline.

    August 10, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  19. art

    I like the cracking open a beer and sliding down the emergency chute thang by the flight attendant. If you're going to go out, go out big! Obviously the airline industry has become a high-pressure endeavor for those employed in it, and we're finally seeing someone react to the stress of it all with an energetic response. Or, perhaps the attendant once read about the decline of Western civilization, and simply decided it was something he would like to make a contribution to.

    Either way, I'm ok with it. But, I'm the kinda guy who insists on using chopsticks in a German restaurant. 🙂

    August 10, 2010 at 8:03 am |
  20. Mike Posey

    Gotta love the way this guy "quit".....Dramatic barely covers it....Frustration, all that, finally comes to rest at some point... Funny how people react to situations....I'm always amazed at what people do...In my life, 64 years, I've seen alot of strange stuff.....Pretty hard to show me something I haven't seen at least once....this would be one of them.....I say, "good for him"......It's like that line in the movie, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore...." Network, I think? Anyhow, keep up the good work, particularly Anderson Cooper, and his hard-hitting reporting from the Gulf....Dr. Gupta from Haiti....This is the stuff we need to hear about....hard, and honest reporting from people who know, and are articulate enough to bring it to life....You guys do the same. I get up early out here on the "left" coast and watch you and John every morning.....My news "fix" of the day....Thanks for your professionalism, and honesty....Attributes sorely lacking in the mainstream of life these days....Certainly from the "administration". Obama is a master of "smoke and mirrors".....I voted for him, won't again.....I'd vote for that gunslingin' soccer Mom from Alaska if she's the nominee next time for the Republicans...She is getting smareter...Not alot, but from where she was in '08, she's a Rhodes Scholar now....Give her another couple years, she MIGHT be ready to actually run this screwed up mess...talk about inheriting a screwed up country? Obama is going to leave a massive debt, high taxes, and a middle class that resembles "bag ladies".....I'm worried about all of us in "the great middle class".....God help us all...Mike Posey Lakeside California.....

    August 10, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  21. itsontv

    The flight attendant story is the most hilariously stupid thing EVER.
    Sure, charge the passenger for breaking the rules. But flight attendant using the emergency slide? The whole plane has to go in to be refit now.

    August 10, 2010 at 7:43 am |
  22. Bill Payne

    Let's see: He's 39, works in one of the arguably more stressful "customer-contact" jobs, has been traveling to and from California to meet family commitments with this ill mother, had his father pass away, and asked for a simple apology from a passenger who was actually in violation of the law after the passenger's act caused him bodily harm?

    If JetBlue's HR department has a shred of decency, they would put him on medical leave, offer him help through their EAP – Employee Assistance Plan – and steer him to recovery and a return to his job. THAT would be the wise thing to do, from both a marketing standpoint and an HR standpoint.

    Lastly, their legal department might want to press charges against the passenger who violated the law by leaving their seat while the aircraft was taxiing to the gate. Somewhere in DHS and FAA law there's an item about "interference with the crew". I saw to Jet Blue: PURSUE IT!

    August 10, 2010 at 7:29 am |
  23. Pauly

    I think the charges, as well as the possible 7 years sentence, are a little excessive. How did he recklessly endanger the passengers? A good lawyer will be able to argue what he did actually prevented a possible altercation w/ the passenger.

    Also, he could have ruined many of the passengers' day by calling security. Would have had the TSA, police & others swarming onto the plane & holding passengers for hours to interrogate them. The media would have been deployed to cover the " an incident on a plane at JFK."

    August 10, 2010 at 7:19 am |
  24. Elizabeth Pickles

    To the jerk who thought that the rules applied to everyone but himself, kudos to the flight attendant. I wonder if (a passinger in a car), would he have opened the car door, to get something out of a roof car carrier, while still moving???

    August 10, 2010 at 7:19 am |
  25. Christine Foster

    Coping with fellow passengers is an aggrevation that certainly pushes the limits of one's patience. People who stand up before the seatbelt light is off and start unloading the huge carry-ons they have managed to sneak through the gate and arrogantly think they are entitled to more space, and quicker deplaning than everyone else on the plane annoy everyone, I suppose that if you work as a flight attendant watching this and so much more could easily facilitate a mini melt-down. Did the offending passenger merely walk away unscathed because I personally would have choice words for him – as he evidently thought he was the only person on earth that day and we are surrounded by these thoughtless individuals who permeate every day of our lives.

    August 10, 2010 at 7:17 am |
  26. CAROL

    I FEEL FOR THE GUY...UNLESS YOU DEAL WITH THE PUBLIC YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW SOME PEOPLE REAL THINK THEY ARE ABOVE OTHERS AND DONT HAVE TO FOLLOW THE RULES...WAITRESSES DEAL WITH THIS ON A DAILY BASES...

    August 10, 2010 at 7:06 am |
  27. debbie

    This is what happens when u r working long hours, underpay and trying to survive in a bad economy. Ggive the guy a break

    August 10, 2010 at 6:46 am |
  28. Daniel G. White

    flight attendant story: Don't say "As a rule..." That connotation makes you think there could be some option. It is a rule...safety is a requirement.

    August 10, 2010 at 6:45 am |
  29. Pauly

    I give the guy a lot of credit for being able to put up w/ abuse from passengers for 20 years. He didn't hurt anyone. He grabbed a beer & left. The plane was parked. He didn't throw any passengers down the chute. I wonder how many times he thought of throwing a passenger from a plane while it was in flight. As a passenger. I have had this urge many times. Many people tend to leave their manners at home when they leave for the airport..

    August 10, 2010 at 6:26 am |
  30. Mavi Gozler

    Why are we not hearing statements about why the passenger was not charged with failing to obey an order from the flight crew, especially when it comes to air safety? Surely an example should be made of the passenger. Too often we see passengers unbuckling the belts and standing up when the plane has barely touched down. Time to start frogmarching these cretins.

    August 10, 2010 at 6:22 am |
  31. Ronny

    The passenger assaulted the flight attendant and should have been charged with assault – but they arrested and charged the flight attendant?

    Maybe the flight attendant should be sent to Gitmo for interrogation and torture.....

    August 10, 2010 at 6:21 am |
  32. R. Douglas

    Way to go guy. I think Jet Blue should hire him back. We fly this airline all the time and the crew is always great.
    Anyone working with the public knows just what this poor flight attendant must have been going through. Why did the passenger think he had the right to disregard the rules?

    August 10, 2010 at 6:10 am |
  33. Ronny

    Good Morning CNN!

    The story on the flight attendant just shows how rude some people are and the flight attendant shouldn't be charged with a crime. If anything the rude passenager should be charged.

    August 10, 2010 at 6:08 am |