A Canadian man has been arrested in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai after he allegedly opened the door on a commercial plane and triggered the evacuation slide prior to takeoff.
According to a statement issued by the Chiang Mai International Airport, the incident took place on the night of February 7.
The air traffic control tower was reportedly notified at 10:05 p.m. that Thai Airways flight TG121, due to depart for Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, was waiting in line on the runway to take off when a passenger opened one of the plane’s doors, causing an evacuation slide to deploy.
The Airbus A320 was unable to be immediately moved, temporarily preventing other flights from taking off and landing, said the statement.
“After receiving the alert, we reached out to Thai Airways mechanics to get into the site to cut the evacuation slide off, then we towed the aircraft back to landing pit number 15,” said Wing Commander Ronnakorn Chalermsanyakorn, director of Chiang Mai International Airport, in the statement.
The director added that 13 flights in total were affected by the incident, including eight that were forced to circle in the air before being cleared to land. In total, 2,295 passengers were affected by the delays, said Ronnakorn.
Thai Airways issued a statement in response to the incident, noting that mechanics were able to repair and inspect the door in accordance with safety regulations, with the delayed flight eventually taking off for Bangkok after midnight.
“The flight continued its journey at 12:34 a.m. on the 8th of January,” said the statement. “All passengers, pilots and cabin crew were safe.”
Chiang Mai Police Colonel Manuschai In-thuean, the officer in charge of the case, told CNN they arrested Wong Sai Heung, a 40-year-old Canadian national, at the scene.
If found guilty he could face the death penalty, imprisonment of up to 20 years and/or a 600,000-800,000 baht ($16,700-$22,300) fine, though it should be noted Thailand has not carried out a prisoner execution since 2018.
Police said they were unaware of the suspect’s motive for opening the door, but noted he appeared stressed and was difficult to communicate with.
“We sent him to the Suan Prung Psychiatric Hospital for an evaluation,” said Manuchai.
Police told CNN they provided the suspect with a lawyer and a translator during interrogations as required by law and they are continuing to investigate the incident.
CNN has reached out to the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok for comment.
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