"Who the f*** do you think you are? Bruce Willis?" a drunken passenger screamed as he tried to fight off an off-duty policeman on a flight between New York and Belfast in March an Irish court was told yesterday.
Off-duty Northern Irish police officer Terry Spence eventually subdued Francis Steenson after a fight that saw passengers, some with young children, flee from their seats to the back of the aircraft as the two rolled around on the floor.
Eventually Spence was able to handcuff Steenson and he was restrained in a row of seats that was clear of passengers.
Previous to that the inebriated Steenson, who had been drinking for 24 hours, had abused passengers, physically attacked cabin crew and tried to open the emergency door of the plane while in flight.
The trouble began just an hour into the flight when an already drunk Steenson -- began walking up and down the aisle and screaming shouting abuse at other passengers, telling them to "get out" of his seat,
Cabin crew asked him to calm down but he physically attacked then and started throwing drinks at other passengers. Just over an hour out from Belfast the 55-year-old, Belfast native , then jumped up screaming that he wanted to get off the flight and tried to open the emergency door, which was located close to him.
He then hit out at a female and male member of the cabin crew, trying to restrain him. It was then that the off-duty police officer acted.
The court heard that Francis Steenson, had been drinking for 24 hours straight when he boarded the Continental Airlines flight from Newark airport on March 26.
He continued to be verbally abusive to passengers and crew until the plane touched down in Belfast and he was escorted off by Airport Police.
District Judge Robert Alcorn told Steenson that he should never be allowed to board another flight again. "At 40,000 feet, in a confined space of an aircraft, you left a lot of people terrified. If I had any way of stopping you I would stop you flying for the rest of your life. If I had been a passenger I would not have been best pleased, having paid that fare, to have to put up with that for five hours," he said.
His defence lawyer told the court that Steenson is an admitted alcoholic who travelled to the US to see his girlfriend. He said Steenson since the incident he has been attending Alcoholic Anonymous in a bid to "turn his life around".
The judge sentenced Steenson to five months in jail, but suspended it for three years "in recognition of the efforts you are making to turn your life around". He warned him, however: "If you commit any offences, it doesn't matter what they are, during the next three years, you will be jailed for the five months you have clocked up.
"It is my policy to put suspended sentences into operation, it doesn't matter to me one bit. If you behave yourself then you will not have to go to prison. "I hope you will be able to turn your life around."