Pilot who ‘tried to shut down plane engines’ mid-flight says he had taken magic mushrooms and thought he was dreaming

24 October 2023, 21:43 | Updated: 24 October 2023, 22:04

Joseph Emerson told police he had taken magic mushrooms for the first time.
Joseph Emerson told police he had taken magic mushrooms for the first time. Picture: Facebook/LinkedIn

By Jenny Medlicott

An off-duty pilot who tried to cut out the plane’s engines mid-flight has said he thought he was dreaming when the incident occurred and had taken magic mushrooms for the first time.

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Joseph Emerson, 44, was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder after he “unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines” on a plane mid-flight.

He was not flying the aircraft when the incident occurred but was sitting in the cockpit of the Alaska Airlines flight behind the captain and first officer.

Now Emerson has said he was on magic mushrooms and thought he was dreaming when he allegedly tried to cut the fuel to the engines.

Emerson reportedly tried to pull “both emergency shut off handles” because he thought he was dreaming and wanted to wake up.

An affidavit obtained by KGW8 said that Emerson told the police he had suffered a “nervous breakdown” after not sleeping for 40 hours and had also taken psychedelic mushrooms for the first time.

“I didn’t feel okay. It seemed like the pilots weren’t paying attention to what was going on. They didn’t… it didn’t seem right,” Emerson told police, according to the document.

The affidavit does not specifically state whether Emerson was under the influence of the magic mushrooms at the time of the flight - but it does say he thought he was dreaming.

The flight had to be diverted to Portland.
The flight had to be diverted to Portland. Picture: LinkedIn

“I pulled both emergency shut off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just wanna wake up,” he also reportedly told police.

He also reported becoming depressed around six months ago, according to the federal affidavit, and it was his first time taking the psychedelic drug.

“Emerson attempted to grab and pull two red fire handles that would have activated the plane’s emergency fire suppression system and cut off fuel to its engines. After a brief physical struggle with the pilots, Emerson exited the cockpit,” a statement from the District of Oregon Department of Justice said.

The father-of-two had been talking to the plane’s two pilots casually before he suddenly threw off his headset and declared “I am not okay”, according to court documents.

He reached for two red levers in the cockpit and had to be “wrestled” off by one of the pilots.

He was eventually kicked out of the cockpit when he said: “You need to cuff me right now or it's going to be bad.”

Crew members managed to “subdue” the off-duty pilot during the incident and the aircraft quickly had to be diverted to Portland, Oregon.

Read more: Off-duty pilot who ‘tried to shut down plane engines’ mid-flight charged with 83 counts of attempted murder

Read more: Harry and Meghan mocked as ‘work-shy grifters’ who make $250,000 Instagram posts in Family Guy savage takedown

Joseph Emerson was charged after the incident.
Joseph Emerson was charged after the incident. Picture: Facebook

The plane was supposed to fly from Everett, Washington to San Francisco, California.

A recording from air traffic control communication hears one of the pilots saying: “We've got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit, and he doesn't sound like he's causing any issue in the back right now."

“I think he’s subdued,” the audio added. The pilot went on to request police backup for when the plane landed in Portland.

Emerson was arrested by Port of Portland officers after the plane landed around 6:30 pm local time on Sunday evening and has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder.

He also faces an additional 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft, according to police documents.

“All passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight," Alaska Airlines said.

“We are grateful for the professional handling of the situation by the Horizon flight crew and appreciate our guests' calm and patience throughout this event.”

The Port of Portland Police Department and the FBI are now investigating the incident, according to Alaska Airlines.

The Federal Aviation Administration told US air carriers that the incident was "not connected in any way shape or form to current world events".

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