19 September 2000

Passengers kill air rage man

By Simon Davis

An airline passenger was killed by other travellers when he tried to break into the flight deck and attack the crew.

At first police believed that Jonathan Burton, 19, died of a heart attack after the "air rage" incident on a Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix to Salt Lake City in the United States. But a post-mortem examination has shown that he died "from intentional actions by another individual or individuals".

Burton began lashing out at fellow passengers as he stormed towards the flight deck 20 minutes before the plane was due to land. At least eight passengers brought him down and punched and kicked him. He died after being carried from the plane. He had severe cuts and
bruises to his body, face and neck and other "blunt force injuries", the report said. It gave the cause of death as suffocation. Small traces of cannabis were found in Burton's bloodstream, it added.

"He was strangled, beaten and kicked," said Kent Spence, a lawyer for the Burton family, which is considering whether to take legal action against the passengers and the airline over the incident last month. "We want to know how this could have happened. He had no history of violence. He would sooner take a spider outside than kill it."

The United States attorney's office has decided not to charge any passengers, saying that the killing was self defence.

Air rage incidents have risen dramatically around the world. The Federal Aviation Administration recorded 292 on United States airlines last year, compared with 138 in 1995.

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