FBI: Passenger who kicked in part of cockpit door said he wanted to 'destroy everything'

Friday, February 8th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ A passenger who kicked in part of the cockpit door during a United Airlines flight from Miami to Argentina said he wanted to ``destroy everything,'' the FBI said Friday.

Pablo Moreira Mosca, 29, paced the aisles of Flight 855 on Thursday, entering the plane's first-class section several times. He then rammed his shoulder into the cockpit door at least six times, according to an FBI affidavit.

As passengers tried to restrain him, Moreira kicked open the lower part of the cockpit door and crawled inside, up to his torso. Crewmembers hit him with the blunt end of an ax before a doctor aboard the flight sedated him, the affidavit states.

Shortly before landing in Buenos Aires, Moreira allegedly said, ``I wanted to destroy everything.''

Moreira, a Uruguayan national, was returned to Miami shortly after 4 a.m. Friday, escorted by two Argentinian police officers and two U.S. Diplomatic Security Service agents.

He was scheduled for an initial court appearance Friday afternoon. He faces a felony charge of interfering with a flight crew and a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted, said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela.

The incident began midway into the flight to Buenos Aires. Several of the 157 people aboard said Moreira was shouting that he wanted to talk to the pilot as he rushed to the front of the plane.

``No information at this time indicates it's a terrorist incident. But, of course, the FBI is investigating,'' Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for President Bush's Homeland Security Council said Thursday.

The drama in the sky also highlighted air travel safety concerns prompted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Richard C. Reid's alleged attempt in December to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with bombs hidden in his shoes.

United and American airlines both have reinforced their cockpit doors with metal bars. Some passenger advocacy groups insisted Thursday that further steps are needed.

Moreira _ who works for a bank in Montevideo, Uruguay _ did not appear drunk and was not armed, Orihuela said.

Argentine authorities said they were investigating whether he was under the influence of drugs or mentally distraught.

``He doesn't remember what happened,'' said Argentine Air Force spokesman Jorge Reta.

Passengers reported minutes of chaos, scuffling and blood being spattered about as punches flew.

Brian Hopman, an Associated Press sales representative aboard the flight, said he saw red lights flashing and people rushing to the front of the cabin when it all began.

``There was a big struggle between the pilots and this guy and also some first-class passengers. It appeared that they had been involved in the altercation and had blood all over their clothing,'' said Hopman, who was in the middle section of the plane.

Another traveler, Lucia Tilia, said pilots used their belts to tie Moreira down, later allowing him medical attention.

``The pilots had to hit him to tie him down,'' she said.

United Chairman and CEO Jack Creighton said in a statement the reinforced door helped prevent Moreira from entering completely into the cockpit.

``The passenger never gained full entry,'' he said.

David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, a passenger group, said more security is needed.

``Maybe they could put in additional bars,'' said Stempler, adding he believed there should be some discussion about arming crew members with stun guns ``or more lethal weapons.''

The Department of Transportation gave all airlines until early January to strengthen cockpit doors. Many have done so, and the industry has said it envisions installing stronger doors in the future.