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Man Was Killed By Fellow Passengers After 'Air Rage' Incident In 2000

Man Was Killed By Fellow Passengers After 'Air Rage' Incident In 2000

No-one knows why Jonathan Burton stormed the cockpit, and no-one has ever been prosecuted for his death

Tom Wood

Tom Wood

A 19-year-old man was once killed by his fellow passengers on an aircraft because he went completely berserk and suffered from an affliction that can only be described as 'air rage'.

Air rage is any disruptive or violent behaviour from passengers on flights. Sometimes it's because they're scared of flying, sometimes it's because they're really drunk.

In this case, we have no idea.

Jonathan Burton was flying from Paradise, Nevada to Salt Lake City, Utah on 11 August 2000, when he stormed the cockpit door of the Southwest Airlines aeroplane and tried to get in.

The other passengers aboard the flight leapt into action and eight of them started to restrain Burton.

However, they did so with such force that he died from asphyxiation. The autopsy found evidence of blunt force trauma to the face, neck and torso.

While the autopsy also discovered that Burton had a small amount of marijuana in his body, he had no history of outbursts such as this one, and no previous history of mental health issues or problems with violence.


Burton was headed off to spend two weeks with his aunt and uncle, and was looking forward to a summer spent with family, the way he had done since childhood.

On the plane, he reportedly started acting erratically, taking a drink from the trolley instead of waiting to be served and rummaging for packs of peanuts in the back cabinet.

After a few minutes, he started pacing up and down the aircraft. ABC News reports one passenger recounted: "When he walked past me, he was mumbling and he seemed anxious.

"He seemed stressed."

Suddenly, he shouted and kicked the cockpit door. Another passenger said it 'looked like he was intent on going in there [the cockpit], but it looked like the pilots were intent on pushing him out'.


Eventually, volunteers gathered to guard the cockpit, and Burton was restrained, but that wasn't going to be the end of it.

On the plane's final descent, Burton kicked up again, punching, spitting, and shouting.

A group of men grabbed him and restrained him on the floor, with some sitting on his limbs to keep him still.

One passenger reported hearing someone shouting 'hurt him! Beat him up!'

Another says a large man wearing boots repeatedly kicked Burton whilst he was on the floor.

He said: "I felt this group, particularly this one man, was out of control,

"He was stomping on Jonathan's chest, one foot at a time, I don't know what the rest of the group was doing other than holding him."

He went to the men and asked them to stop, later remarking to his travelling partner: "I think they're killing him back there."

When the police came on board, Burton was unconscious, still with a group of men restraining him.

He had bleeding from his mouth, a 'discolouration' to his forehead, and contusions on his chest from the ordeal.

Burton eventually died at a local hospital.


A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said at the time: "The flight crew did absolutely what they thought was necessary in response to Mr. Burton's behavior."

However, a lawyer for Burton's mother Janet Burton argued: "I'm certainly not going to say they shouldn't have restrained him. But once he was restrained, the tables turned and the restrainers were out of control. Who was there to control them?"

The death was eventually ruled as a homicide, but then-US Attorney Paul M. Warner did not press charges, arguing the other passengers acted in self-defense.

His mother said: "That wasn't Jonathan. It's just nothing like Jonathan. He would never go looking for a fight.

"I can appreciate the fact of passengers being scared. If I'd been a passenger, I would have been scared.

"But Jonathan needed to be safely restrained. He should have been in a Salt Lake City jail if he caused a problem on that plane. They had no right to be judge, jury and executioner."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: US News, travel, Weird