By
msnbc.com news services
updated 6/13/2012 5:03:27 PM ET 2012-06-13T21:03:27

Ten passengers filed a lawsuit Wednesday against JetBlue Airways, claiming they feared for their lives when a pilot had to be physically restrained after running through the cabin yelling about Jesus and al-Qaida during a New York-to-Las Vegas flight in March.

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The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court in Queens, claims the airline was "grossly negligent" in allowing Capt. Clayton Osbon to fly.

Plaintiff Michael Bedziner, 48, of Commack, N.Y., who was headed to a conference of security consultants, said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, he has often looked around airplane cabins, suspicious of who may be a terrorist.

"But you always look to the airline crew and say, 'OK, this is a group I can turn to and say we're safer.' What does this tell us? Now the very people that we're supposed to turn to for that assurance are the ones we're frightened of. And the pilot, no less," he said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit.

Sharon Jones, a JetBlue spokeswoman, said the airline does not comment on pending litigation.

Related: JetBlue suspends captain after in-flight meltdown

A flight attendant's ribs were bruised as passengers tried to restrain Osbon, but no one on board was seriously injured. The March 27 flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas.

Osbon faces a hearing Friday morning in Amarillo to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial. He faces federal charges of interfering with a flight crew. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Attorneys Jonathan Reiter and Steve Epstein, who represent the 10 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said they intend to seek information on whether there were any indications Osbon had shown signs of mental instability before March 27.

"We're going to have to delve into that," Reiter said. "That is one of the things this lawsuit is about."

According to the lawsuit and a federal indictment, witnesses on Flight 191 say Osbon ran through the cabin in a wild rant. The first officer locked him out of the cockpit and passengers wrestled Osbon to the floor.

The lawsuit also claims he was "yelling about September 11th, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, al-Qaida and terrorists."

Other comments, according to the suit, included: "we're all going down," "you better start praying right now," "I'm going to show you Iraq and Iran right now," "there's a bomb on board," and "the plane will never make it to Vegas."

Related:
JetBlue pilot who had midair breakdown will plead insanity

Neither Bedziner nor three other plaintiffs at the news conference could provide many specific details on what they heard. They said they witnessed the commotion from various venues aboard the jetliner.

Richard Signoretti, 48, of Rosedale, N.Y., had his eyes closed and was listening to music when the woman next to him poked him to get his attention after the trouble started.

"What I got from him was, 'You're not going to make it to Las Vegas.' It was extremely frightening, it was extremely unnerving. I still haven't gotten a good night's sleep," Signoretti said.

The lawsuit claims JetBlue knew or should have known Osbon was unfit to be entrusted with the aircraft as pilot.

The 10 plaintiffs, all from the metropolitan New York area, are seeking unspecified damages for emotional distress.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: JetBlue pilot in jail after mid-air meltdown

  1. Closed captioning of: JetBlue pilot in jail after mid-air meltdown

    >> pilot who suffered an apparent midair meltdown made his first public appearance since that incident last week. and nbc news had the only television crew there as he was let out of the hospital. gabe gutierrez is in amarillo with the story.

    >> good morning. captain clayton osbon just spent his first night here at the randall county jail. prosecutors are asking that he be held without bond. a judge is expected to rule on that on thursday. but for the pilot's family, this has already been an agonizing few days. seen here exclusively, captain clayton osbon left a texas hospital monday for the first time in almost a week. close behind, his wife. clearly emotional, clutching the arms of her husband's fellow jetblue pilot, all on their way inside the federal courthouse in amarillo, or osbon would face a judge. prosecutors say the veteran pilot started behaving erratically last tuesday, as jetblue flight 191 flew from new york to las vegas , before making an emergency landing in amarillo. in the cell phone video you can hear osbon yelling before being tackled, curious and worried passengers get up from their seats, trying to see what's going on. a federal complaint alleges the outburst began when osbon realized his co-pilot had locked him out of the cockpit. passengers say he'd been talking incoherently about religion, and the sins of las vegas .

    >> just out of his mind. screaming things to the passengers, say your prayers, say your prayers.

    >> reporter: in a written statement, osbon's family thanked the plane's crew and passengers for their compassionate handling of the situation. adding, it is our belief that while he was clearly distressed, he was not intentionally violent toward anyone. back at the ten-minute hearing on monday, where prosecutors asked the judge to hold osbon without bond at the randall county jail, osbon simply smiled at his supporters, and only spoke up when asked if he understood the charges against him. he said, "i do," but did not enter a plea. as he was escorted out of the courtroom, his wife mouthed the words "i love you." and, in a strange coincidence, another man awaiting trial here in the same jail, charged with interfering with a flight crew . he was on a southwest flight from l.a. last october, that also made an emergency landing here in amarillo. ann?

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