An American businessman has been fined in an Irish court after an air rage incident on board a United Airlines flight to Shannon at the weekend.
According to the Irish Examiner, Stephen Herring had to be physically restrained after he displayed 'obnoxious behaviour' towards his fellow passengers and the United crew during the flight from Newark, for which he later apologized.
Herring told the court he had 'blacked out' after taking sleeping tablets and alcohol, inferring that his behavior was out of character.
Herring had planned a vacation in Ireland but when the plane landed at Shannon Airport he was met by Irish police officers. The captain of United Airlines flight 24 from Newark had earlier informed them of a disturbance on board.
Inspector Tom Kennedy told the Examiner that Herring had refused to put on his seatbelt or sit down. His manner was described by passengers and crew as obnoxious and one female passenger moved seats due to his offensive language. Eventually a crew member forcibly restrained him.
Herring, from Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to all three charges against him under the Air Navigation and Transport Act.
Lawyer Aoife Corridan said her client was ashamed and appalled, explaining that Herring took one Ambien sleeping tablet after two alcoholic drinks before boarding his Shannon bound flight in Newark. After that, Herring claimed he blacked out. The next thing he recalls, Corridan said, was waking up in handcuffs.
Insp Kennedy said that cabin crew felt that Mr Herring was disorientated. “Mr Herring was obnoxious to people around him to say the least. Both the captain and the passenger sitting closest to him said that he was acting irrationally."
The court heard that Herring, who runs a family business that employs 13 people, is also raising a daughter who he shares joint custody of.
His lawyer, Aoife Corridan, said that he "completely blacked out and remembers nothing" after taking an Ambien sleeping pill with after having a few drinks as the plane departed Newark for Shannon.
Corridan stated that the medical information on Ambien warns against taking with alcohol as mixing with drink "affects the central nervous system, impairs judgement, thinking and psycho motor skills."
She said he had a few drinks on the flight from Texas to Newark prior to flying to Ireland and "his next memory is waking up in handcuffs in utter terror".
She said, "He is utterly appalled and very remorseful after being told about what he did - it is something that is entirely out of character and the only explanation is the combination of the Ambien and the alcohol."
Her client “should have properly heeded the warning on Ambien and not consumed alcohol and he wouldn't have found himself in this sitiuation".
She stated that she had 15 references to give to the court from people very concerned about him. She said: "They are utterly shocked to hear of the situation."
Judge John O'Neill told the court that taking sleeping tablets or alcohol are no excuse for the anxiety Herring caused other passengers, but he agreed that the matter could have been more serious.
Judge O'Neill struck out the charges on condition that Stephen Herring made a $625 donation to the Clare Crusaders Children's Charity.