A Southwest Airlines jetliner on its way to San Francisco returned to Los Angeles International Airport shortly after takeoff because of a fight between two passengers, witnesses told NBC News.
FBI agents met the plane at the gate late Sunday and one person was removed from the Boeing 737, Southwest spokeswoman Melissa Ford told The Associated Press.
The pilot of Flight 2010 decided to return to LAX because of a "rapidly escalating" situation that culminated in a "physical altercation by one person against another," Ford said Monday. She did not elaborate but said the two passengers involved were not traveling together.
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Comedian Mark Curry, the star of the 1990s sitcom "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" who now hosts a morning radio show in San Francisco, said he was asleep on the plane and the commotion woke him up.
"I thought it was a terrorist so I jumped up," Curry told KNTV-TV, the NBC affiliate in the Bay Area. "The woman was saying he grabbed her neck, saying 'he choked me! He choked me! He hit me in the head!'"
Curry said, "The lady was frantic. They wanted me to put restraints on the guy. They asked me if I would help. I said, 'At 30,000 feet, yes! I'll beat anybody down.' It was an incredible situation."
The passenger who was removed from the flight was detained for questioning. No arrest was immediately made but the investigation was still underway, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
The flight left LAX around 9:50 p.m. and returned to the airport about an hour later, Ford said. The captain declared an emergency to receive priority for landing, she said.
The remaining 136 passengers switched planes and departed again for San Francisco International Airport around 12:20 a.m. Monday, Ford said.