Joseph Emerson, 44, was off-duty and sitting in the jump seat in the cockpit of a Horizon Air plane from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco when he allegedly tried to shut off the engines’ fuel supply while high on magic mushrooms.
Now passengers Matthew Doland, Theresa Stelter and Paul Stephen have filed a legal complaint against Alaskan Airlines alleging that Emerson should never have been allowed in the cockpit because he was suffering from depression and a lack of sleep.
‘The pilots and flight attendants operating Flight 2059 responded without hesitation to ensure the safety of all onboard’ Alaska Airlines said in a statement, confirming it was reviewing the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges the plane experienced ‘what felt like a nose-dive,’ and that the plaintiffs have suffered from anxiety, insomnia, fear of flying and other emotional effects as a result of the experience.
Emerson faces 83 counts of attempted murder and one count of endangering an airplane which he as denied
He faces 83 counts of attempted murder and one count of endangering an aircraft.
The pilot made an initial appearance in Multnomah County Jail court last month.
Emerson’s defense attorney Ethan Levi told Good Morning America his client ‘had no intention to harm himself or anybody on the plane.’
Emerson himself admitted to police that he had not slept in 40 hours and had taken magic mushrooms 48 hours prior to the incident on October.
The chaos unfolded in the cockpit of a Embraer 175 plane. Emerson was sitting in the jump seat, used for off-duty pilots, when he suddenly ripped off his headset and said: ‘I’m not okay’.
He then tried to pull two red levers that would have cut the plane’s engines before one of the pilots managed to ‘wrestle’ him off.
Emerson later told federal officials: ‘Yah …I pulled both emergency shut off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just wanna wake up.’
Video shows the moment former Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph Emerson, 44, was escorted off a Horizon Air flight after he tried to shut down the plane’s engines midair
Emerson’s wife Sarah Stretch spoke of her ‘shock’ over the incident as she addressed reporters outside her husband’s first federal court appearance on Thursday
Neighbors described Emerson as a ‘fantastic father’, a friendly man who would play basketball with his kids on a court he built for them in the back yard, and invited neighbors over for parties
After the brief physical struggle, Emerson was locked out of the cockpit and seen ‘calmly’ walking to the back of the plane, telling flight a attendant that he had just been ‘kicked off the flight deck’.
A mid-air emergency was declared and Emerson was sat at the back of the plane. He reportedly told flight attendants: ‘You need to cuff me right now or it’s going to be bad.’
He was placed in wrist restraints and then tried to pull an emergency exit door, but was stopped by an air hostess, the DOJ said.
The federal affidavit also states Emerson reported becoming depressed around six months ago, and said it was his first time taking psychedelic mushrooms.
It added that the dad believed he was suffering a ‘nervous breakdown’.
He told police in an interview after, ‘I didn’t feel okay. It seemed like the pilots weren’t paying attention to what was going on. They didn’t… it didn’t seem right,’ he told police.
Emerson denied taking any medication but spoke with cops about using psychedelic mushrooms – telling them it was his first time taking the drug.
Once arrested, he asked if he could waive his right to an attorney at the Port of Portland police department, and said: ‘I’m admitting to what I did. I’m not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys,’ the document states.
Emerson had been sitting in the third ‘jump’ seat of the cockpit when the chaos started – a seat commonly used by off-duty pilots who need to fly a later flight so they don’t need to take up a passenger seat.
Passengers Matthew Doland and Theresa Stelter and Paul Stephen have filed a legal complaint against Alaskan Airlines
Emerson denied taking any medication but spoke with cops about using psychedelic mushrooms – telling them it was his first time taking the drug
The captain told ground control: ‘We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit. He doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issue in the back right now, and I think he’s subdued. Other than that, yeah, we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.’
There were 80 passengers including children along with four crewmembers on board the plane.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said that Emerson attempted to turn off the engines by engaging the engine fire suppression system.
The fire suppression system – otherwise known as the engine fire handle – consists of a T-shaped handle for each engine.
‘If the T-handle is fully deployed, a valve in the wing closes to shut off fuel to the engine. In this case, the quick reaction of our crew to reset the T-handles ensured engine power was not lost,’ Alaska Airlines said.
Video from the day of the incident shows Emerson was led off the plane by uniformed police.
Emerson’s wife, Sarah Stretch said: ‘That’s not my Joe. He never would have done that. He never would’ve knowingly done any of that.’