Eastern Calls Police to Restrain Passengers, Five Arrested
MIAMI (AP) _ Police arrested five of the nearly 200 Eastern Airlines passengers who stormed an airport ticket counter after their flight to New York was canceled, officials said.
″For a time there, it was an unruly and unmanageable situation for officers to handle,″ Metro-Dade police spokesman Rey Valdes said of Sunday evening’s confrontation with seven police officers at Miami International Airport.
″Everybody was angry, but most calmed down when they were told to,″ Valdes said. ″But a few kept arguing and demanded to be put on a plane.″
One officer suffered minor cuts to his arms and face, Valdes said, adding, ″We were lucky nobody was seriously hurt.″
The trouble began shortly after 5 p.m., when a flight to Kennedy Airport for 317 passengers aboard an L-1011 was canceled because of a mechanical problem. A Boeing 727 was dispatched as a replacement, but could only handle 149 passengers.
″The rest were stranded, and that’s when things got out of hand,″ said Eastern spokesman Robin Matell. ″Apparently there was some fighting among the passengers to get on that plane.″
A mob gathered at the ticket counter, police said.
″When police arrived there were about 200 people crowding around the Eastern ticket booth, and some were in the restricted area behind the counter,″ Valdes said.
Joanna Corinella, 38, and her husband, Anthony, 40, of Sands Point, N.Y., began fighting with officers on their way out the door, Valdes said. Their 14- year-old son, whose name was not released, then entered the fray, and all were arrested on charges of battery on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence, police said.
Albert Catasus, 65, of New York, also was arrested on battery and resisting arrest charges, Valdes said.
″Just when things started to calm down and people were being led away, one man got up and started telling people to go through the gate and force their way on a plane,″ Valdes said. ″He was advised to lower his tone of voice, but he continued.″
Police charged Aaron Solomon, 37, of North Miami Beach, with a county code violation of preventing others from using the airport, Valdes said.
Mrs. Corinella was released from the Dade County Jail on Sunday night on $4,000 bond on two battery counts. Her husband and Catasus, each charged with one count of battery, were released on $2,500 bond. Solomon was released on a promise to appear in court, and the 14-year-old was released to the custody of his grandfather, police said.
Matell said a DC-9 was called in after the ruckus to carry 99 of the passengers to New York at 10 p.m., still leaving about 70 in Miami. He said overnight lodging and meals for those passengers would be paid by Eastern, and they would leave on regular flights this morning.
In last four years, three or four arrests have been made relating to airport problems with flight delays, Valdes said.
″The officers are used to dealing with this kind of thing,″ he said. ″These five individuals were unruly and dealt with accordingly.″