Monique Lawler of Diamond Bar was on the flight and captured the scene on her cellphone once safely on the ground.
"Some gentleman just decided that he wanted us to visit the Lord today, and decided to open up the back hatch of Southwest Airlines flight while we were already up in the air," Lawler said.
The drama unfolded Sunday afternoon on Southwest Airlines flight 722 en route from Chicago midway to Sacramento.
Lawler says the suspect was acting strangely. At one point, he went into the bathroom and came out soaking wet, but then his odd behavior took a serious turn.
"He got up and went to the rear of the plane and tried to open up the hatch," said Lawler. "One of the airline stewardess just started screaming as well as passengers screaming help."
She says a large male passenger jumped into action quickly taking the suspect down.
"He kind of subdued him, held him down, and he tried a couple of times to open up the back hatch," said Lawler.
It's unclear if drugs or mental illness were a factor in the incident. Lawler says she's just grateful for the Good Samaritans' quick actions and the pilots' decision to land as quickly as possible.
"You heard the guy saying OK, well emergency landing and we landed in Nebraska, and all the police and TSA agents came on and got this guy off of there, and needless to say, we were applauding the gentlemen that held him down," said Lawler.
The flight arrived safely at its destination about two hours behind schedule.
It remains unclear if the suspect will face any charges.