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‘I will kill you': United flight diverted to Anchorage after passenger attacked flight attendant, charges say

A passenger on a flight headed to Japan from California is accused of becoming unruly and hitting a flight attendant, ultimately leading to the flight’s unexpected diversion to Anchorage on Sunday, according to court documents filed this week.

Seksan Kumtong, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 32, struck a flight attendant in the face, grabbed the flight attendant by the neck and tie, and tried to push them to ground, Brenden Ryan, a Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent in Anchorage wrote in an affidavit supporting a criminal complaint that alleges Kumtong broke federal law by interfering with the flight’s crew and attendants.

“I will kill you,” Kumtong yelled during the incident, according to the document.

In an emailed statement from the airline, United said the flight was diverted to Anchorage because of “a disruptive customer.”

“The flight landed safely and we worked to get customers on their way as soon as possible,” the statement said.

Leading up to the violent altercation, according to the affidavit, Kumtong had been banging on the airport bathroom doors of the flight headed from Los Angeles to Narita, Japan. He was “shouting and acting unruly,” according to the document.

A flight attendant offered Kumtong a different bathroom before he attempted to shove the flight attendant but missed, the affidavit states.

Flight attendants decided not to serve Kumtong any more alcoholic beverages after more problems during the flight, according to the filing.

After falling asleep at his seat, Kumtong awoke and asked for more alcohol, and the document states that when he was denied more drinks, he yelled and swore loudly.

The lead flight attendant asked Kumtong to slow down on the beverages. Then, according to the filing, Kumtong hit the flight attendant in the face and grabbed the flight attendant by the neck and tie, trying to force the flight attendant to the ground.

Passengers on the flight, along with other crew members, restrained Kumtong as he continued to act violent, yell and shout obscenities, according to the document.

That’s when the flight was diverted to Anchorage’s international airport, where it landed around 4:45 p.m. Sunday and was met by airport police, Customs and Border Protection, the TSA Federal Air Marshal Service and the FBI, the affidavit stated.

The flight’s crew and passengers were put up in an Anchorage hotel Sunday night before leaving the next day, according to Dave Schulling, deputy chief of the Anchorage Airport Police and Fire Department.

Kumtong is in federal custody and is being held at the Anchorage Correctional Center, according to Chloe Martin, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Alaska. He appeared in court Wednesday and was appointed a federal defender. He has a continued detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Martin said. His defender wanted more time with Kumtong since he needed a translator, Martin said.

Correction: A previous version of this story referred to Chloe Martin as a spokesperson for the U.S. District Attorney’s Office. She is a spokeswoman at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Alaska.

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