In the latest in a series of bizarre and disturbing in-flight incidents, a Canadian soccer player was nearly strangled by the passenger sitting behind him on an international flight on Friday.
Initial reports suggest the attack was entirely unprovoked. The footballer’s team-mates leapt in to restrain the alleged attacker, who was taken away for mental evaluation when the flight landed in the US.
Canadian media identified the Ottawa Fury soccer team forward who was assaulted as Oliver Minatel, aged 22.
A man sitting directly behind Minatel on Air Canada flight 8623 is accused of having attempted to strangle him with a headphones cord, team spokesman Graeme Ivory told the Ottawa Citizen.
Ivory said that about half an hour before the plane landed in Atlanta, “without warning or provocation” a man reached over the seat and started to strangle Minatel with his headphones cord.
It was not clear from reports whether the cord was Minatel’s or the attacker’s.
Teammates and other passengers restrained the man, who was detained and guarded for the rest of the flight. Authorities boarded the plane and arrested the suspect when the flight landed in Atlanta.
Ottawa Fury FC is a Canadian professional soccer team founded in 2011 which made its debut in the North American Soccer League in 2014. Minatel, a Brazilian, was its leading scorer last season.
Minatel was shaken but unhurt.
In classic understatement, Ivory told the paper: “You’re not really expecting anything like that on an airplane.”
The FBI said it transported the arrested passenger “for medical/mental evaluation under the direction and coordination of the Atlanta Police Department”.
Written by Peter Needham