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City councillor steps in after Air Canada passenger allegedly tries to open door

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, May 18th, 2017

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It was a shocking end to a family vacation as city councillor Michael Thompson helped restrain a man threatening to take down an Air Canada flight on Monday.

Coun. Thompson said he was returning from Jamaica with his mother when a passenger, sitting in business class, became aggressive.

The Air Canada flight crew tried to calm the man, who has been identified as Brandon Michael Courneyea, but when he continued to be aggressive, they moved him to the back of the airplane, near where Coun. Thompson was sitting.

That’s when the Scarborough Centre representative stepped in to try to help.

“I asked if it would be okay for me to just sit and try to talk with him,” Coun. Thompson explained. “At that point I sat with him and we were talking and things were going okay for a little while and then he sort of reacted and said ‘I don’t want you to sit here anymore … I don’t want to talk anymore. Just get up and just get outta here.’”

Courneyea then told Coun. Thompson that he wanted to take the plane down by opening the rear door.

“It was rather threatening. He took a coffee pot and threatened to throw the coffee at me because we were standing in his way trying to prevent him from opening the door,” Thompson said.

Courneyea then allegedly lunged for a rear door and began pulling the lever.

As the situation escalated, more people tried to step in to help, while the tension proved too much for others.

“Some were crying, some were just very concerned, obviously, because you don’t know what could have happened and we didn’t know what the situation was, we didn’t know what prompted this particular individual to react in the fashion that he reacted in,” Thompson said.

It was decided that Courneyea would be restrained until the plane, which was being diverted to Orlando, landed and authorities could deal with the man.

Thompson said he helped flight attendants restrain the man by putting zip ties on his feet while others used restraints on the man’s wrists.

Courneyea’s wife says his arrest has come as a complete shock, saying his alleged behaviour is not in keeping with the man she knows.

“That is not my husband at all,” she told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview. “There’s a lot more to what brought that on, because my husband is the kindest, most loving man you’ll ever meet. And anybody that knows him will tell you the same thing.”

Amanda Courneyea said her 33-year-old husband headed off to Jamaica last week from his home in Amherstview, Ont., to fulfil a long-held desire to take a vacation there.

She said she had urged him to “cross it off his bucket list,” adding he travelled alone because the couple has five children, many of whom have special needs, and cannot be left in the care of a babysitter.

But Brandon Courneyea’s vacation plans went awry almost immediately, according to his wife, who said he told her that locals were threatening his life.

She arranged for him to move up his flight plans from Friday to Monday, booking him on an Air Canada flight to Toronto that left Montego Bay in the late afternoon.

In a statement, Air Canada commended its staff for following proper procedures to ensure the safety of the plane.

“Our crew are trained to respond to such situations and followed standard procedures to ensure the continued safe operation of the flight,” Air Canada said in a statement.

“It should be noted that although the passenger threatened to open an exit door, this is impossible to do during flight.”

When the plane landed in Orlando, federal agents arrested Courneyea. He is facing several charges.

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