National News

Passengers Deplaned At Fort Smith Airport After Pilot Said He Was Accused Of Drinking

Posted July 7

— Passengers at the Fort Smith Regional Airport were deplaned from their flight after the pilot said he had been accused of drinking.

Flight 5859 to Dallas-Fort Worth was scheduled to take off from Fort Smith at 6:26 p.m. The sheriff's office was called out to the airport at 8:49 p.m.

One passenger told 5NEWS the plane had already been delayed due to weather issues in Dallas, but the passengers were seated and ready to go when the plane lurched forward and hit a bump. Passengers said they gasped and were confused, but the plane backed up onto the runway for about five minutes before it circled back around pulling back into the gate.

"The pilot came on the speaker and said a passenger had accused him of drinking and the flight was canceled," passenger Michael Norman said.

"[Gate agents] said they have never heard anything like this in their entire career where a pilot is accused," passenger Daniel Mwanza said. "But, once it happens protocol is that they have to bring in law enforcement to test the pilot."

The Sebastian County Sheriff's Office was called to the airport at about 8:49 p.m. to give the pilot a field sobriety test.

"There really wasn't a whole lot to it," patrol sergeant Richard Rivera said. "I respect the gravity of somebody saying 'maybe the pilot has been drinking, maybe he is drunk.' I respect that, but we all know how that goes on a plane you get one guy saying one thing it's going to spread throughout the plane so I think they did a good job disembarking and getting someone out to do a field sobriety test."

Rivera said the pilot passed both a field sobriety and breathalyzer test with flying colors. The identity of the pilot is not being released at this time.

He also said this was the first time in his 14 year career he has ever heard of a call like this, but applauds the airline for making that call and making sure the passengers are safe when there is an accusation like this.

The plane eventually took off from Fort Smith at 9:59 p.m., but most passengers re-booked their flight for Friday morning (July 7).

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