The off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot accused of attempting to disable a plane’s engine mid-flight told investigators he believed he was dreaming, according to state court records obtained by CNN. And he had eaten “magic mushrooms” 48 hours before the incident.
Authorities say Joseph D. Emerson, 44, attempted to cut fuel to the plane’s engine Sunday as the flight was flying from Washington state to San Francisco. The airline said the prompt actions of the aircraft’s captain and first officer saved the engine from complete failure.
An affidavit filed by prosecutors said Emerson told investigators he had consumed ‘magic mushrooms’ “approximately 48 hours before the incident on the plane.” According to a separate federal court document, he also said he had been awake for the past 40 hours.
Emerson told police he thought he was dreaming and believed that pulling the handle of the fire sprinkler system – which reduces fuel in the plane’s engines – would “wake him up”, according to state court records. The document says.
According to the documents, Emerson was riding in the cockpit in the jump seat, as is allowed for off-duty pilots, and the confrontation began when he reached for fire control.
As Emerson reached for the controls, one of the pilots “grabbed Emerson’s wrist and (the other pilot) reported that he wrestled with Emerson for a few seconds before Emerson stopped and said he was OK. ,” the documents state, “Emerson was not” able to pull the handle down completely before the pilots intervened.
Emerson had experienced depression and the recent death of a friend, according to the documents. According to a separate federal criminal complaint, he said he was feeling nervous and told the flight crew he needed to be restrained.
It is highly unlikely that psilocybin – sometimes called “magic mushrooms” – would still be in the pilot’s system 48 hours after use, but it is possible that he could feel the long-lasting effects of the drug. Be that as it may, said Matt Johnson, a Johns Hopkins professor who studies psychedelics and other drugs. Johnson compared mushroom use to drinking alcohol – while a person does not remain intoxicated the day after drinking alcohol, the hangover caused by alcohol can impair their behavior or ability to function.
It’s possible, Johnson said, that the long-term effects of psilocybin, existing depression, and lack of sleep may have created a “perfect storm” in which Emerson was experiencing behavioral changes or slipping out of reality.
Alienation is a feeling of alienation from one’s surroundings. People often describe the experience as if they were in a movie or a dream. “Psychotic-like behavior” is one of the risks of taking psilocybin, Johnson said, especially for people with existing mental disorders.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon announced Tuesday that Emerson has been charged in federal court with interference with a flight crew. The charge comes on the heels of dozens of state charges filed in Oregon, including 83 felony counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft, booking records show. Is. He pleaded innocent to all state charges Tuesday.
Off-duty pilot Joseph D. Emerson was accused of trying to shut down the plane’s engine in mid-flight.
According to a release from the U.S. attorney’s office, after the cockpit collision, Emerson was carried to the back of the plane, but then attempted to grab the emergency exit handle during the flight’s descent.
The flight was diverted to Portland, Oregon, where Emerson was taken into custody by Port of Portland police, the agency said in a statement.
While in custody, Emerson told a police officer that he had become depressed about six months earlier, according to an affidavit written by an FBI agent and included with the federal complaint. Emerson denied taking any drugs, but he discussed psychedelic mushrooms with the responding officer, the affidavit said.
“The officer and Emerson talked about the use of psychedelic mushrooms and Emerson stated it was his first time taking mushrooms,” the affidavit states.
Asked specifically whether Emerson told authorities he was under the influence of mushrooms at the time of the incident, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon told CNN it is part of their ongoing investigation. While in custody, Emerson said, “I’m admitting to what I did,” according to the affidavit. He said, “Friends, I am not fighting whatever allegations you want to make against me.”
Emerson is being held without bail in the Multnomah County Jail and appeared in court Tuesday wearing a blue jail uniform and with his hands cuffed behind his back. Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Jenna Plank said his release was not discussed at Tuesday’s hearing, saying his case requires a “more robust release hearing” within five days. Online records do not list an attorney for Emerson, and CNN is working to determine whether he has legal representation in both state and federal court.
A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation told CNN that authorities do not believe the incident was terrorism or ideologically motivated violence. Investigators believe it may have been the result of a mental health episode, the source said, and officials are preparing for court officials to order an evaluation of the defendant’s psychological condition as part of court proceedings. Are.
After taking off from Everett, Washington, Alaska Airlines Flight 2059, operated by regional carrier Horizon Air, reported a “safety hazard involving an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot, identified as Emerson, who attempted a flight deck jump.” Was traveling on the seat.” the airline said in a statement.
The airline said that while in the cockpit, Emerson had tried to shut down both of the Embraer 175’s engines by pulling the fire extinguisher handle.
“The fire suppression system has a T-handle for each engine; When pulled, a valve in the wing closes to shut off fuel to the engine,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement to CNN. “After they’re pulled, some residual fuel remains in the line.”
The airline said the crew’s quick response to resetting both handles helped restore fuel flow and prevented the engines from shutting down.
The affidavit says Emerson initially engaged the pilots in small talk about the weather and the plane. He then said, “I’m not okay,” and one of the pilots looked back to see him reaching up and grabbing the red fire handle, the affidavit states.
One of the pilots grabbed Emerson’s wrist while the other declared an emergency during the flight, the affidavit said. One pilot said that Emerson “initially resisted,” and the two “wrestled” for about half a minute before Emerson agreed to leave the cockpit.
In air traffic control audio recorded by LiveATC.net, a pilot on the plane can be heard saying, “I think he’s under control.” “Also, we want law enforcement to be there as soon as we land and are parked.”
“After calmly walking to the back of the plane,” Emerson told a flight attendant, “You need to handcuff me right now, otherwise this will be bad,” the affidavit states.
The crew placed handcuffs on her wrists, but during landing, Emerson “turned toward the emergency exit door and tried to grab the handle,” and a flight attendant restrained her, the affidavit states.
“Another flight attendant saw Emerson make statements such as ‘I messed everything up’ and ‘He tried to kill everyone,'” the affidavit states. “Emerson was heard to say that he had put the lives of 84 people in danger tonight, including his own.”
When the plane landed at Portland International Airport around 6:30 p.m., Emerson was taken into custody by Portland police officers, the port said.
The FBI said no injuries were reported on the flight.
All passengers were later able to fly to San Francisco with a new crew and aircraft, the airline said, noting that it had “reached out to each of them to discuss their experience and to check in on their well-being.” “Are being contacted individually.”
Two passengers on board the plane told CNN that the airline crew maintained a calm atmosphere on board the plane during the incident.
One of the passengers, Aubrey Gavello, said he did not realize anything was wrong until a flight attendant announced over the loudspeaker that the plane needed to land immediately.
“We didn’t know where we were landing, and we didn’t know what was wrong. But (the flight attendants assured us we were safe),” Gavello said on CNN’s “Laura Coates Live” Monday night.
Later, the pilot informed passengers via loudspeaker that there had been a “cockpit disturbance”, said Alex Wood, who was sitting in the front of the plane. Wood said he was wearing headphones during the incident and continued to sleep.
“I was right near the cockpit, but nothing woke me up. Nothing was loud enough, nothing was extreme enough to wake me up,” Wood said.
Emerson’s neighbor Ed Yee told CNN it was “pretty shocking” to hear about the suspect’s alleged actions. “He seems like a really nice guy. There is nothing unusual about that,” Yee said.
Records show Emerson had his most recent FAA medical examination last month. He holds a first-class medical certificate, the highest level of medical certificate awarded by the agency, which requires an examination every six months for pilots age 40 and older.
According to information shared by Alaska Airlines, Emerson has worked in the aviation field for at least two decades.
“Throughout his career, Emerson completed his mandatory FAA medical certifications in accordance with regulatory requirements and at no time were his certifications denied, suspended or revoked,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement.