Salinas Man Subdues Angry Traveler

A Salinas seminary teacher said Monday he had dealt with unruly people before but never expected to deal with a man shouting and shoving people on a commuter flight.

"The guy got up and started yelling and screaming stuff like, "You murdered Jesus Christ and you're all going to die." What he was saying didn't suprise me, what surprised me was that he was at the front of the plane," said Art Romero, 42.

Romero, who was returning to San Jose from a business trip to Tucson Friday afternoon, aided airport security in subduing a man aboard America West Flight 37. The suspect tried to break down the cockpit door and shoved a flight attendant into a walkway, witnesses said. According to Romero, as the Boeing 737 prepared to leave Tucson, the man began yelling at the passengers and refused flight attendants' requests to return to his seat.

Romero, two security officers and a flight attendant suffered minor injuries while struggling to get the unarmed man off the plane. The other 115 passengers on the flight were unharmed.

The Tucson FBI booked Ronald Max Higgins, 30, on suspicion of interfering with a flight crew, a federal crime, according to Jack Callahan, FBI spokesman in Phoenix. Higgins faced arraignment Monday in U.S. DIstrict Court.

Another passenger on the flight, Robert Colvin, said in a phone interview from Las Vegas that Romero really was the hero.

"The guy (Higgins) went bananas. But Romero confronted the guy. If it wasn't for Art Romero the thing might have gone on and passengers could have been hurt."

Colvin said after unsuccessful attempts to calm Higgins, a flight attendant at the rear of the plane quietly asked men nearby to move toward the aisle and prevent Higgins from advancing any further. Art Romero was the first man standing in the line that formed in the aisle.

As Higgins continued to rant and rave, the pilot brought the plane back to the gate. The flight attendant opened the door to the walkway and Higgins shoved her out.

"That's when I realized that he (Higgins) was dangerous," Romero said.

Romero said he was glad to return home to his family in Salinas. He runs a graphic design and corporate marketing business out of his home and he has taught theology to high school students at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for seven years.

Romero said America West Flight 37 finally headed for Las Vegas about three hours after authorities arrested Higgins.

Arizona Daily Star

Man Subdued on Jet to Vegas Before takeoff

By Carmen Duarte
The Arizona Daily Star, April 13, 1991

An America West flight to Las Vegas was aborted at Tucson International Ariport yesterday after a man tried to break into the cockpit, officials said.

Ronald Max Higgins, 30, was charged with interfering with a flight crew, a "crime aboard an aircraft," said FBI Special Agent James F. Ahern of Phoenix.

Higgins apparently "went kind of nuts and tried to kick down the door to the cockpit" while the plane was moving down the taxiway, said Paula Dunn, a Tucson Airport Authority spokeswoman.

"He ... stood up and made refereces to Jesus Christ," Dunn said. He also used the word "hijacking," shortly before he tried to get into the cockpit, she said.

The pilot of the 737, preparing for a 3:55 takeoff, radioed airport police and told them he was returning to the gate because of a disturbance, Dunn said.

Passengers tried to subdue HIggins, who was not armed, she said. When police officers arrived, another struggle ensued, she said.

A fight attendant and two officers suffered minor injuries, she said. The attendant apparently had a bruised shoulder, and one officer's nose was broken, while the other had minor facial injuries, Dunn said.

One officer was taken to St. Mary's Hospital and the other was taken to Kino Community Hospital, said TIA spokeswoman VIcki Doyle. Both, whose name were withheld, were treated and released, she said.

The flight attendant boarded another flight to Phoenix where she planned to receive medical attention, and the 116 passengers were rerouted on other flights.

Higgins underwent psychiatric evaluation and was being held at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson last night, Ahearn said.

Man Jailed in Attempted Hijacking

Faxed from Monolith Technologies, April 15, 1991, no newspaper atribution, Tucson paper

A 30-year-old man is being held in a federal detention center here after allegedly trying to kick down a cockpit door and assaulting several people aboard a plane at Tucson International Airport yesterday.

A flight attendant and two security officers were injured slightly. No passengers were hurt.

The 3:30 p.m. incident occured aboard an America West aircraft bound for Las Vegas with about 116 passengers on board.

Ronald Higgins, whose address was unavailable, was charged with attempted hijacking, but an airport spokeswoman said last night that airport security was not treating the matter as a hijacking.

According to the spokeswoman, the flight attendant was flown to a hospital in Phoenix on the next scheduled company flight. She suffered a shoulder injury. The other two people injured were punched in the face.

According to Paula Dunn, another spokeswoman, the man later identified as Higgins suddenly got up from his seat as the plane taxied down the runway and made several remarks about "Jesus" and "hijack." He then tried to kick in the cockpit door, witnesses reported.

The pilot returned the aircraft to the gate, where the man refused to leave the airplane. He was forceably removed by Tucson Airport Authority police. No weapons were found on HIggins, Dunn said.

Because hijacking is a federal offense, Higgins was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. He was arrested, psychologically evaluated and charged with attempted hijacking. He was taken to the federal Correctional Institution in Tucson last night, Ahearn said.