Bruce Worrilow could tell by the tone of the yells that a serious situation was unfolding.
When the Marina del Rey resident, who was recently on board a Delta Airlines flight returning to Los Angeles, heard the shouts for help by a flight attendant, Worrilow knew he could not just sit back.
Just minutes before Delta Flight 110 was about to touch down at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Wednesday, January 7th, Worrilow, who was traveling with his wife and two young daughters, said he saw the flight attendant get knocked down by a male passenger who was asked to sit down.
Seated three rows behind the other passenger, Worrilow stood up from his seat after hearing the attendant’s calls for help and followed the passenger to the back of the airplane.
“From the way he [the flight attendant] was shouting, it was obviously a very serious situation,” recalled Worrilow, an editor and post-production film supervisor at UCLA.
The passenger, whom Worrilow described as being “very pumped up” at the time, told Worrilow to stay away from him and allegedly threatened that he had a bomb on board. In what Worrilow remembers as being a very quick encounter, the two men briefly looked at each other, deciding what was going to be the next move.
Little did the passenger know that Worrilow happens to be a competitive triathlete who would be quick to respond if need be. Worrilow tried to look through the man’s clothing to see if he was carrying anything, and when the man allegedly reached for the rear exit door, the fear really set in.
“He then lunged for the emergency exit and that’s when the biggest fear happened,” Worrilow recalled.
The Marina resident said he reacted by tackling the passenger to the floor in the narrow aisle, at which time about five other Delta passengers rushed to help out. Worrilow and the assisting passengers struggled with the man, holding down various body parts, and were able to restrain him as the plane landed safely.
“I was spread-eagle over his torso, while the others were holding other parts down,” Worrilow said.
The group managed to cuff the man’s hands and feet using plastic ties provided by flight attendants before law enforcement officers arrived at the scene. No air marshals were on board during the flight, which had about 230 passengers, police said.
Police arrested the suspect, identified as Lawrence Johnson, 45, of Kentucky, for allegedly making a false bomb threat, Los Angeles Airport Police spokesman Sgt. Jim Holcomb said. Johnson was being held on $20,000 bail, a Los Angeles police spokesperson said.
Airport police and the FBI conducted a sweep of the plane and Johnson’s luggage and found no explosives on him or on the plane, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. Authorities interviewed Johnson and were investigating the possible motive for the incident, she said.
During his encounter with the suspect, Worrilow said he tried to learn the reasons for his actions.
“I talked to him the whole time to keep him calm because he was really agitated,” Worrilow said. “He then became very apologetic.”
Worrilow talked to the man about where he was from, and when Johnson was asked why he came to Los Angeles, he told Worrilow that he wanted to “start all over.”
Noting that the incident “happened so fast,” Worrilow said he was relieved to receive the aid of fellow passengers in trying to deter the potential threat posed by the suspect.
“I was thankful that as soon as I hit him all of these other guys came,” he said of the passengers’ efforts. “I was very thankful I had reinforcements.”
While no trace of explosives was found, authorities have praised the actions of the Delta passengers in helping to avert the potential threat on the plane.
“It was fellow passengers helping their fellow man in what appeared to be a crisis situation,” Eimiller said.
Worrilow and his family had boarded Delta Flight 110 in Atlanta as a connecting flight from Rio de Janeiro, where they were visiting his wife Cristina’s family for the holidays.
As the plane was about to touch down and Worrilow was comforting his daughter for the landing, he knew he had to keep his family safe if there was going to be a threat.
“My wife and two kids were on that plane,” he said. “If something was going to happen, it was not going to happen without a fight.”
Worrilow believes he and the other passengers who stepped up are not any more heroic than the average person but are just an example of people in today’s society who choose to be more proactive when they feel threatened.
“In this day and age, when someone is yelling for help or someone is saying, ‘I have a bomb,’ it’s not something you can take lightly or sit back and see how it plays out,” he said. “People nowadays are more proactive and take things into their own hands. The days have gone where people will idly sit back and let things happen.”