Probe into death of disruptive air traveler

/ Source: The Associated Press

Prosecutors on Monday were investigating the death of a man who was subdued by several fellow airline passengers after he became disruptive on a New York-bound flight.

William Lee was pronounced dead late Friday after he was removed from the American Airlines flight at Kennedy International Airport. The cause of death had not yet been determined and was under investigation.

Lee, 48, of New York, stood up in his seat on American’s Flight 4 from Los Angeles and “loudly demanded another beer,” airline spokesman Tim Smith said.

Flight attendants asked him to wait until they reached his row, Smith said, but the man “got very, very belligerent and loud and disruptive and was told he would not be served any more alcohol.”

The purser tried to calm him down, but he pushed her aside in order to get to the aisle, the spokesman said.

Seven other male passengers restrained Lee, who was a very large man, and they and the flight crew put flexible handcuffs on him and put him back in his seat, Smith said.

Lee got out of his seat again and the seven passengers held him on his back on the galley floor until the plane landed, Smith said. He said he had heard reports the men were members of a rugby team but said he couldn’t yet confirm that.

After the landing, Port Authority police boarded the plane and administered CPR to Lee, who “was in some kind of distress,” Smith said.