Police: Unruly Passenger Punches Flyers, Forces Plane to Land Mid-Flight

A United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Miami, Florida, was forced to land mid-flight Wednesday after an unruly passenger, John Yurkovich Jr., 45, punched several passengers in the face, authorities said.
Charleston Airport Police Department

A United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Miami, Florida, was forced to land mid-flight Wednesday after an unruly passenger punched several flyers in the face, authorities said.

John Yurkovich Jr., 45, was arrested, restrained with zip ties, and sedated with a shot of Benadryl in his buttocks, the Charleston County Aviation Authority Police Department told the Raleigh News & Observer.

The plane, which took off from Newark shortly after 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, was forced to land in Charleston, South Carolina “due to a disruptive passenger,” United Airlines said in a statement.

Yurkovich became “restless” and “agitated” after he made a trip to the airplane restroom, airport police said in an incident report.

“The suspect got up from his seat again to retrieve what appeared to be pills from his carry-on bag in one of the overhead bins,” officials said. “The suspect then sat back down in his seat and began to scream and thrash around.”

The FBI alleged that Yurkovich was carrying two milligrams of methamphetamine.

As one of his seatmates braced himself to keep Yurkovich from falling on him, Yurkovich allegedly took off his mask and started yelling at him, authorities said.

“Don’t f**king put your hands on me! I’ll f**king punch you in the face,” Yurkovich allegedly screamed.

Yurkovich then allegedly punched that passenger several times, breaking his glasses and causing him to “bleed excessively from his ear,” according to an FBI criminal complaint.

That same passenger required seven stitches to his ear, the complaint stated.

Other passengers tried to restrain Yurkovich, including two who were also punched in the face. One of them suffered a broken nose trying to restrain him.

Yurkovich was charged with federal assault and criminal acts on an aircraft and charged at the state level for alleged drug possession.

Yurkovich’s attorney, Rose Mary Parham, told McClatchy News the incident is “uncharacteristic” of Yurkovich.

“This entire incident is very uncharacteristic of John,” Parham said. “He is a loving husband and father and successful businessman.”

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