A guy name Bryan Sisco finds his Delta flight from Dallas to Atlanta is delayed and heads to the bar, where he consumes a few too many--but is not visibly hammered. Though the midst of going through a messy divorce with his wife, he's already playing the field for the next one. He evenually boards his flights and disregards his seat assignment, opting to sit next to the prettiest girl on the plane, Danielle Valimont (who as you'll see below, was not blessed with the quickest mind but ultimately showed some commendable spunk).
He starts talking to her immediately and the 23 year-old is grossed out. But like many Southern belles, she is polite, smiles, and nods intently even as she is sending text messages to her friend about what a creep she's sitting next to.
As the plane continues to board, another woman shows up at Bryan's seat and claims that she is seated in 20D. Bryan protests. A fight attendant comes by with a manifest and tells Bryan he is in the wrong seat, but Bryan quickly quips that he and Danielle are newlyweds and Danielle remains silent. Satisfied with the explanation, the flight attendant reseats the other passenger.
In her blog, Danielle wrote:
He acted as if we’d known each other for years, and told me he was an architect for a JC Penny in Dallas. (explaining the large cylinder package of plans)
He was very crass with his language and called me “B****” and “F*****” in a friendly, joking way–if that’s possible…
No, I don't think that is possible.
Once airborne, Bryan asks a strange question to Danielle: "Have you ever wondered if someone could get something on the plane they weren’t supposed to?" Danielle shrugs and he proceeds to open up his briefcase, pull out a butane torch, and turn it on near her legs. A six-inch flame shoots out (way to go TSA...). Next he pulls out what he claims is a taser.
Danielle nervously laughs and says, "And here I thought you were an architect," then reaches over and grabs the tall cylinder package under his seat--you know, the Mike Brady type thing where an architect puts his drawings in--only there is something more than drawings inside. It feels heavy like a shot-gun and Danielle, perhaps foolishly, begins to unwrap the masking tape around the cylinder.
Bryan freaks out and says that the canister is filled "with gas strong enough to make everyone on the plane pass out."
Houston, we have a problem.
Danielle asks him how he got his packages through security and Bryan claims he doesn't have to go through security because he's a Federal Air Marshall (sadly, I would not be surprised if this turned out to be true). He claimed that he had a list of all the passengers on the plane and chose to sit next to her because she was "harmless."
Finally Danielle shows she's not just a dumb blonde. She had taken and eaten some chocolate from the guy (well, that was a dumb blonde move--didn't mom always warn against taking candy from strangers, especially creepy ones?) and hatched a plan to get up from her seat without arousing suspicion. She innocently asks what type of chocolate she had just ingested and Bryan says "dark." Danielle's eyes suddenly open wide and she claims that she is allergic to dark chocolate and excuses herself to the lavatory.
Inside the lav, she furiously types the following note on her iPhone then discreetly hands it to a FA, who thankfully was sitting on his rear in the back of the plane rather than assisting passengers:
If the guy in 20D is a Marshall disregard this msg. He has a torch that he lit and showed me. And he said his canister has a gas device that will make everyone on the plane pass out if there is danger. He also has a device that says is like a tazor. I will go sit back down. Do what you need to.
That note took some spunk. Nicely done.
She returns to her seat where Bryan wants to watch a comedy show with her. She agrees and they share a headset. Meanwhile, the FAs are huddling in the front, plotting their next move.
One comes back to Danielle, says they cannot find her boarding pass, and asks her to bring her stub to the front of the plane. She complies and when upfront, offers to go back to her seat but the crews tells her to remain stay put.
In case Bryan really was up to something more than just chasing tail, the crew created a cover story about why the aircraft was suddenly diverting to Memphis. A medical emergency. Tragic. Ambulances were ordered to be waiting on the ground and two cops disguised as paramedics were even instructed to rush to the aircraft with a stretcher.
The plane lands and the two "paramedics" quickly board and rush down the aisle like they are trying to save Private Ryan, stopping at Bryan's aisle and quickly slapping handcuffs on him before he can react.
He's carted off to jail and federal authorities searched the plane. Nothing else was found, including in his cabin baggage. The plane continued on from Memphis to Atlanta two hours later.
Meanwhile, Bryan did not continue on to Atlanta. He told a local newspaper:
I couldn't even feel my thumb, the handcuffs were put on so tight. I spent three days in a county jail and a fourth day in a federal penitentiary. I was stripped buck-naked twice.
While I often bemoan the fact that we have become disgustingly frightened of things we should not be when it comes to airline security, this is not one of those cases.
If I was the Captain onboard that Delta flight, I would have diverted as well (and sent Bryan the bill) and I offer my praise for Danielle, though I have to question why she did not protest in the first place when Bryan claimed they were married or when Bryan directed vulgar language at her. But she came through in the end and proves once again that it is not the TSA that stop the bad guys, but the passengers and crew onboard. Maybe if the TSA had caught the butane lighter (which have been banned since 2004) none of this would have ever happened.