Apparently intoxicated passenger arrested on flight to Boston

Man allegedly tried to open door

By Stewart Bishop and Neal J. Riley
Globe Correspondents / May 11, 2011

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The passengers and crew of Delta Flight 1102 on its way to Boston were given a scare last night when an apparently drunk passenger pulled a handle on one of the emergency exits in midflight.

The flight, which originated in Orlando, Fla., was about halfway to Boston when a man described as being visibly intoxicated and wearing a Boston Bruins jersey, pulled the emergency exit handle he was seated next to, passengers said after landing at Logan International Airport. The man was indentified last night as Robert J. Hersey, 43, of Arlington, said Phil Orlandella, spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Todd Varley, 21, of Hanson said the incident occurred in the row directly behind him.

“I actually saw him in Orlando, and he asked me to go to the bar with him,’’ Varley said. “He was very intoxicated.’’

Varley said as soon as the man pulled the handle on the door, an alarm went off and a flight attendant came and escorted him to the rear of the plane, which was carrying 148 passengers and five crew members.

State Police and other law enforcement agencies responded to the airport and took Hersey into custody and charged him with interfering with a flight crew. More charges may follow, State Police said last night.

Multiple passengers reported seeing Hersey in an airport bar in Orlando and said he was “foul-mouthed and drunk.’’

Passenger Phil Tighe said flight attendants brought the disorderly man to the rear of the jetliner and seated him between himself and another man for the duration of the flight.

“I had to sit next to him the whole . . . flight,’’ Tighe said. “He was just a jackass. He was just a drunken guy.’’

Tighe said the man appeared lucid and told him: “I goofed. I messed up.’’

Logan received a report from Delta Airlines that a disorderly passenger had been stopped while attempting to open the emergency door on the Airbus 320 jetliner, Orlandella said. He said it was unclear why the passenger tried to open the door.

Delta said a passenger who is a law enforcement officer assisted crew members in dealing with the incident. The officer sat next to the passenger through the rest of the flight, Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott said.

When the plane landed at 10:19 p.m., several state troopers immediately boarded.

Jack Gantos, 59, of the South End, was seated in first class and said as soon as the plane landed, many passengers tried to rush to the front. Gantos said he was not immediately sure what happened, but said the atmosphere was very tense.

“You knew it was not good,’’ he said.

The captain had to order passengers back to their seats on two occasions before State Police boarded the plane, Gantos said.

It appeared last night that all the passengers were taken off the plane before State Police removed the man from the airplane.

Stewart Bishop can be reached at Neal Riley can be reached at