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Unruly United passenger reportedly heard screaming obscenities in terminal before disrupting flight

September 27, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A former Costa Mesa man was taken into custody Tuesday night after he reportedly became aggressive and began grabbing women on a United Airlines flight to Orange County.

Arash Durrani, 26, was taken into custody Tuesday night after United Flight 473 from Chicago landed at John Wayne Airport.

Passengers on United flight 473 say they noticed Duranni's bizarre behavior early on before he became physically and verbally abusive with the flight crew.

According to passengers, Duranni cut in front of people waiting to board, and screamed profanities as he walked down the jetway while they were still in the terminal.

Passenger Nona Pitts says she knew Duranni was going to be a big problem.

As cell phone video shows - she was right.

"Chaos started, fighting, hitting, they grab him and they hold him down and it took seven guys to hold him down for the next two and a half hours of flight!" said Passenger Nona Pitts.

Pitts, who owns a Brea salon, initially sat next to Durrani and tried to calm him down, but says flight attendants kept serving him alcohol.

Durrani, she says, started getting violent and using threatening language so she changed seats.

"I moved totally in a different area, he finds me, comes up to me, grabs the top of my head and says 'Nona, I want to kiss you'. I grab him and I say 'Stay away from me, you're just so drunk, get away'," said Pitts.

That's when several of the other passengers had enough and decided to take action.

Passenger Thomas Manning was sleeping when his wife startled him.

"She grabbed me and woke me up and said 'There's someone acting crazy and he's attacking another passenger,'" said Manning.

Manning says he and three other men confronted Durrani several times and forced him to sit down. But when he continued moving about the cabin, acting irrationally, other passengers - worried he may do something dangerous - decided it was time to act.

Several passengers teamed up to restrain Durrani with a belt until landing. They had to use their own belts to tie him up because there weren't any restraints aboard the plane.

Manning questions why the pilots didn't make an emergency landing.

"They were on him for three hours! They did not get him to sit down. So why we went on, I don't know," said Manning.

According to an FBI affidavit, at one point, Duranni screamed "I'm from Afghanistan and I will murder all of you."

Durrani, who goes by the first name Ash, has been in trouble before. At the time of his arrest, he was flying back to Orange County for a court appearance concerning a drunk driving wreck he was involved in back in March. According to court records, Durrani pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run, driving under the influence, and driving with a suspended license.

The FBI said Durrani was taken to a medical facility because he was apparently under the influence of something. He is expected to be charged with a federal offence for interference with a flight crew, authorities said.

Durrani, who also goes by Ash, is listed as an actor in one movie that hasn't been released. His agent, Sheila Di Marco, said Wednesday she hadn't heard anything about the incident.

He is expected to appear in Los Angeles Federal Court Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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