Plane from Tokyo diverted to Anchorage after passenger goes 'berserk'

Michelle Theriault Boots

A commercial jetliner flying from Tokyo to New York City was diverted to Anchorage early Monday after a passenger on the flight went "berserk" and had to be zip-tied to a seat by flight attendants.

Nobuya Michael Ochinero, 38, was arrested by federal agents and police officers at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport early on Monday, according to the FBI.

Ochinero seemed volatile from the time he boarded All Nippon Airways Flight 10, said Chuck Lustig, a Human Rights Watch deputy executive director who was seated in front of the man.

The flight is supposed to be a 12.5-hour nonstop haul from Tokyo to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.

"He was berserk from the moment he got on the plane. He was yelling and screaming, spitting on the floor. He was smacking the back of my seat and other passengers' seats," Lustig said.

Ochinero began harassing flight attendants and yelling, he said.

"It was more like crazy grunting. Nothing really intelligible."

Flight attendants tried in vain to calm the man, Lustig said. Finally, crew members and passengers hatched a plan to subdue Ochinero.

They used zip-tie handcuffs, which were apparently onboard the Boeing 777, to tie the man to a seat. Lustig said Ochinero tried to spit at the passengers and crew.

"He was struggling from time to time. He'd stop and talk to people and struggle some more."

Two of the men who helped subdue Ochinero sat guard for the next hour or two, until an announcement came from the cockpit: Flight 10 was being diverted to Anchorage due to a passenger who posed a security concern.

By that time the entire coach section -- "and probably the people in business class and first," Lustig said -- knew what was going on.

Some of the other passengers on the plane seemed shaken by the incident.

"It was a little scary. But the crew handled it amazingly well."

It wasn't clear whether the man was intoxicated or mentally unstable, he said.

A spokesperson for All Nippon Airways said the airline is still gathering facts about what happened on the flight.

No crew members or passengers were injured in the incident, spokesperson Nao Gunji wrote.

After a few hours on the ground in Anchorage, the flight made its way to New York without incident.

According to Ochinero's apparent Facebook profile, he is a graduate of Skidmore College and Boston College who works at the University of Tokyo.

Federal charges against Ochinero had not been filed as of Monday afternoon, according to the FBI.

FBI assistant special agent in charge Kevin Donovan said he couldn't elaborate on the nature of charges against Ochinero before they are released, citing an ongoing investigation.

Ochinero is being held at the Anchorage Correctional Complex.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.