NEWS | April 15, 2014

UC Davis doctor helps save the day on Southwest flight


Scott Porter
Local television stations interviewed Porter about his helping to subdue an unruly passenger.

Scott Porter, chief resident of orthopaedic surgery at UC Davis Medical Center, made national news after helping restrain a passenger who threatened to open a door on a Southwest Airlines flight traveling from Chicago to Sacramento on Sunday.

With 139 passengers and crew onboard, the flight had to make an emergency landing in Nebraska.

Porter jumped to his feet along with two other passengers when he heard a flight attendant yelling for help in the back of the plane.

“At first, I thought it was a medical emergency,” said Porter. Instead, he found a man causing the commotion by trying to exit the plane.

“The initial thought was that if the guy had a bomb, we were going to go down,” Porter said. “So I wanted to make sure we had the best possible opportunity to survive the situation. I felt that there was nothing that could be done except to intervene.”

Worried that the passenger might have a weapon, Porter went after the man’s hands.

“Another guy grabbed his neck, and another grabbed him, too, and we collectively wrestled him to the ground. He remained combative and wanted to break free and hurt people," Porter said.

Porter called for an air marshal. When none came, he asked the flight attendant if the plane was equipped with zip ties. It was, and the men were able to restrain him with the ties for the rest of the flight. He was taken into custody by airport police in Omaha.

Dr. Scott Porter is interviewed by local TV station

Two days after the event, Porter said the experience was a bit exciting and made him feel a bit like Jack Ryan , the covert CIA analyst who uncovers a terrorist plot in the movie "Shadow Recruit."

But, Porter admitted, “In the midst of it, it was terrifying.”

In the end, he was glad his instincts kicked in.

“My immediate reaction was to go back there and do something,” he said. “It’s part of what we do as doctors. To me, it all felt very natural.”

Porter graduates from his residency in June, and has accepted a position in orthopedic surgery at Sutter Davis Hospital.