Passenger who tried to headbutt captain during flight walks free
A man who tried to headbutt the captain of a transatlantic flight after taking prescription drugs and alcohol has walked free from court.
The actions of the unruly passenger on the transatlantic aircraft "could have had catastrophic consequences", a judge has said.
Judge Patrick Durcan made his comment when ordering Damian Kington (35) to pay €4,300 in compensation to British Airways (BA) and a poor box donation arising from the air rage incident that forced the flight to divert to Shannon on Wednesday.
The judge said "an attempted assault of a serious nature was discharged towards the captain of the plane by Mr Kington".
Living in New York, Australian national Mr Kington was one of 30 passengers on the exclusive business class 32-seater service BA operates between New York's JFK airport and London's City airport.
Mr Kington pleaded guilty to two related air rage offences.
Judge Durcan at Ennis Disttrict Court, said "Mr Kington suffered a huge change in character by virtue of the unfortunate combination of drugs and alcohol".
The court heard Mr Kington consumed a Xanax and an Ambien tablet. The mixing of Ambien and alcohol by REM guitarist Peter Buck formed part of his successful defence against an air rage offence a number of years ago. The court heard Mr Kington stood over two passengers in an intimidating way and called them paedophiles.
His disruption forced the captain, Commander Mike Jones, to intervene.
In his statement to gardai, Mr Jones said that in the galley of the plane, "he (Mr Kington) swore at me, pushed me and tried to headbutt me. I stepped back to avoid getting a headbutt and then restrained him. It took two of us to restrain him." He added: "At this point I considered him a serious risk to passengers and to the safety of the flight."
Judge Durcan told the court that "the Damian Kington that is reflected so well in the references and testimonials before me ceased to exist and that for a period on the aeroplane a different person was wearing his clothes and was occupying his skin and physical person".
Mr Kington – a global communications manager with an investment firm – said: "I was and still am extremely mortified by the accounts given by the witnesses and I don't have any recollection of the events or my actions. I am extremely and profusely apologetic to the passengers, the pilot, BA, this court and the gardai. It is extremely out of character and I am very remorseful. I was on new medication and it was irresponsible of me not to check."
Gda Noel O'Rourke said the incident cost BA €3,367 through €2,460 in fuel, ground handling costs of €487 and €410 in landing charges.
Solicitor for Mr Kington, Una Moylan, asked that the Probation Act be imposed.
Judge Durcan ordered Mr Kington to pay €3,367 in compensation and €1,000 to the poor box. The judge said that on the basis of the money paid and the other factors outlined, he would strike out the charge.