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Unruly passenger who diverted London flight to SLC will stay in custody in Utah for now


Police on July 27, 2022, identified a UK man who allegedly assaulted passengers and crew on a flight from London to Los Angeles July 26, forcing the plane to divert to the Salt Lake International Airport, where he was taken into custody by Salt Lake City police officers. (Photo: Eddie Collins, KUTV)
Police on July 27, 2022, identified a UK man who allegedly assaulted passengers and crew on a flight from London to Los Angeles July 26, forcing the plane to divert to the Salt Lake International Airport, where he was taken into custody by Salt Lake City police officers. (Photo: Eddie Collins, KUTV)
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An airline passenger who is accused of assaulting the flight crew and fellow passengers on Tuesday appeared in federal court in Salt Lake City Wednesday afternoon.

William Stephen Hayes, 39, of the United Kingdom, was charged earlier in the day with interference with a flight crew and assault by striking, beating, and wounding – charges that could carry a prison term of over a decade.

Hayes was shackled in the courtroom and guarded by two U.S. marshals as he and appointed federal defender appeared before Judge Dustin B. Pead.

Hayes could be heard asking about where his wife was and if the victims of his alleged crimes were in the courtroom.

According to the FBI, Hayes was a passenger on Virgin Atlantic flight 141 from London to Los Angeles. During the flight, Hayes became "unruly and violent" before being restrained by flight attendants and passengers.

“Witness statements reported that throughout the flight Hayes was loud, disruptive, threatening and abusive to other passengers and to crew members at one point during the flight, Hayes assaulted a male passenger seated in front of him, grabbing the passenger’s shirt, attempting to hit him, and grabbing his throat,” charging documents state.

Other passengers and flight crew restrained Hayes with handcuffs.

“While restrained, Hayes continued to fight and be abusive, and attempted to kick the windows of the aircraft,” the charges state.

The captain of the flight chose to divert the flight to Salt Lake City, where Salt Lake City police and U.S. customs officers detained Hayes.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant United States Attorney Michael Kennedy indicated prosecutors could pursue additional charges against Hayes next week when the case is presented to a grand jury.

Judge Pead told Hayes that if he is released from custody, he will be immediately deported for at least 10 years.

For now, Hayes will stay in custody until a detention hearing which was scheduled for next week.

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Hayes said he was traveling on the flight with his wife, who is 6 months pregnant, and another small child. He described himself as a self-employed electrician in the U.K.

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