JetBlue passengers sue over pilot meltdown

A file photo of Capt. Clayton Osbon at A file photo of Capt. Clayton Osbon at LAX Airport in Los Angeles. (June 17, 2009) Photo Credit: WireImage

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Ten JetBlue Airways passengers, most of them from Long Island, Wednesday sued the airline, claiming it should have known a pilot who had to be physically restrained in mid-flight was unfit to be at the controls.

Pilot Clayton Osbon, 49, was tackled by passengers during the March 27 flight from New York to Las Vegas after screaming about al-Qaida, a bomb and religion.

Five of the 135 passengers on JetBlue's Flight 191 attended a news conference Wednesday at the Garden City law office of Steven Epstein, one of the attorneys who filed the suit.

Katherine Euler, 48, of Smithtown, said that when she saw Osbon running down the aisle of the plane and subsequently tackled by other passengers, she feared the worst was about to happen.

"It did run through everyone's mind -- that we were going down at that point," Euler said. "All of us will think twice before we get on a plane."

Richard Signoretti, 48, of Rosedale, Queens, said he was in row 15, seated next to Euler, and listening to the radio with his eyes closed when he heard Osbon's screams as passengers pushed him to the airliner's floor.

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"The gist of what I got from him is, 'You're not going to make it to Las Vegas, none of you are going to make it out of this plane,' " Signoretti said. "It was extremely frightening. I still haven't gotten a good night's sleep."

A JetBlue spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The civil complaint alleges Osbon and JetBlue put the passengers in fear of imminent harm or death, recklessly inflicted emotional distress and that JetBlue's management was guilty of "negligent supervision" of Osbon. The lawsuit claims Osbon failed to attend a pre-flight meeting and should not have been allowed to fly the plane. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

JetBlue's management failed by "entrusting a commercial airliner to a person who, by his own admission, is insane," said co-counsel Jonathan Reiter, a Manhattan attorney also representing the passengers.

In April, a federal judge in Texas ordered Osbon to undergo psychiatric examination after his defense attorney and prosecutors agreed Osbon's mental state should be examined.

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