An 18-year-old from Bethel grabbed the controls of a Cessna on a commercial flight Wednesday afternoon in Southwest Alaska and sent the plane into a dive before other passengers subdued him, Alaska State Troopers said.
Jaden Lake-Kameroff was on a Ryan Air flight from Bethel to Aniak with four other passengers when he got up from his seat around 2:44 p.m., troopers wrote in an online statement. He was seated in the second row during the flight, said Lee Ryan, president of Ryan Air.
“Lake-Kameroff had asked the pilot to fly the plane earlier during the flight and initially asked to sit in the unoccupied copilot seat. Both requests were denied by the pilot,” troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel wrote in an email.
About five minutes after Lake-Kameroff asked to fly the plane, the pilot, who was identified as Joshua Kersch in an affidavit, said he felt the yoke go forward and saw Lake-Kameroff pushing forward on the controls.
The plane was about 5 miles from the Aniak airport and in the process of landing when Lake-Kameroff grabbed the controls, McDaniel said. The plane was roughly 1,000 to 1,500 feet above the ground, Kersch told troopers, according to the sworn affidavit signed by Trooper Jason Bohac.
Kersch said he was scared and his main concern was maintaining control of the plane, Bohac wrote.
Passengers on the plane said they “thought we were going to die,” the affidavit said.
One passenger said the pilot pushed Lake-Kameroff back and another passenger grabbed him before they were able to hold him down, the affidavit said. Another passenger described holding him in the seat while the plane landed, Bohac wrote.
The plane landed safely in Aniak, which is about 90 miles northeast of Bethel.
“Our pilot relied heavily on his training procedures and his professionalism and landed without further incident,” Ryan said. “... We’re extremely thankful for the safe outcome and extremely grateful for the passengers and the pilot and (flight) command collectively working together to land safely.”
Lake-Kameroff said he had tried to end his life on the plane by grabbing the controls, the affidavit said. He had talked with behavioral health officials previously but said it hadn’t helped, according to the affidavit.
He is facing charges of second-degree terroristic threatening, five counts of attempted first-degree assault and four charges of third-degree assault. Troopers said the Federal Aviation Administration was notified about the incident.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska is working with local, state and federal law enforcement partners, and federal charges will be determined by the outcome of the investigation, spokeswoman Lisa Houghton said in an email.
Two years ago, a 16-year-old took control of a flight after it left Napakiak headed for Bethel and caused the plane to dive. The pilot returned to Napakiak and landed safely. The juvenile suspect’s name was never released.