Magistrate orders mental evaluation for diverted flight passenger

Tuesday, July 8th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A federal magistrate ordered a mental evaluation Monday for a Florida man who allegedly carried fireworks onto a flight that was diverted to Tulsa last week.

U.S. Magistrate Frank H. McCarthy ordered William Herbert Fritz Jr. be held in the Tulsa County jail while being evaluated for depression, and considered for alcohol and drug counseling.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a grand jury indictment against Fritz, 38, who is accused of bringing the fireworks and a knife onto an Alaskan Airlines flight July 3.

Fritz had been receiving counseling in Montana and was flying to Melbourne, Fla., to move in with his parents, federal probation officer Nicole Lebeda told the magistrate.

His mother told federal officials that counselors said her son was ``under a great deal of stress ... nearly at a breaking point.''

While en route, Fritz reportedly showed two minors the fireworks in his carry-on baggage. He reportedly asked the children if they wanted to light the fireworks, but then added, ``just kidding, only fooling.'' One of the youths reported it to a flight attendant.

Two passengers took Fritz, who was described as nonviolent, to the rear of the plane where they could control him if necessary until the plane could make an unscheduled stop, an FBI agent said at the hearing.

The investigation is continuing, authorities said. Another hearing is scheduled for Friday morning.