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Sat, Sep 20, 2003

American Passenger Tries To Storm SAA Cockpit

Suspect Arrested In Atlanta

An American passenger who tried to break into the cockpit during an SAA flight from South Africa to Atlanta is in the hands of federal agents, turned over when the plane landed Thursday.

SAA identifies the man as 53-year old James Drake. Witnesses aboard flight SA209 say he thought someone on the flight was trying to kill him and that the cockpit was the only safe place.

"He did not enter the cockpit," a statement said. "The lives of the 224 passengers, flight deck and cabin crew on SA209 were never in danger."

Not The First Time?

The South Africa Daily News quotes FBI spokesman Jeff Holmes, who says Drake was arrested in 1987 after a similar incident on an airplane.

In the latest incident Drake rushed to the front of the plane and began banging on the cockpit door with his hands, Holmes said. 

SAA flight attendants and passengers, who included a medical doctor and an off-duty American police officer, calmed Drake and assured him that he was safe in his seat.

Drake was reported to have been calm as the flight continued but about two hours before arrival in Atlanta he again insisted that there were people trying to murder him.

The captain of the flight had informed the FBI and US immigration officials, who arrested Drake when the flight arrived in Atlanta.



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