April 28th, 2010
06:11 PM ET

Competency tests ordered for suspect in flight diversion

[Updated at 6:06 p.m.]  A federal magistrate ordered a competency evaluation Wednesday for the former Air Force intelligence specialist accused of making false bomb threats that diverted an international commercial flight.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret J. Kravchuk ordered the evaluation at the request of the public defender representing Derek Stansberry at a short hearing in Bangor, Maine.

Read the full CNN.com story


[Updated at 1:48 p.m.] The man accused of causing a Delta Air Lines flight to be diverted after claiming to have explosives on board is facing charges related to that claim and interfering with a flight crew, according to court documents released Wednesday.

The affidavit supporting the federal complaint says Derek Stansberry passed a note to the flight attendant on Delta Flight 273 Tuesday saying that he was not an American citizen and had a fake passport and other false documents.

Stansberry is a former Air Force intelligence specialist, military officials said. He was scheduled to appear in federal court in Maine on Wednesday.

[Posted at 9:01 a.m.] Derek Stansberry, the passenger whose alleged claim that he had explosives on board a plane forced it to land early, told authorities he had taken a sleeping pill, a federal law enforcement source told CNN Wednesday.

Stansberry served in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence specialist for four years, Air Force officials said.

Delta Air Lines Flight 273, which was heading from Paris, France, to Atlanta, Georgia, was diverted to Bangor, Maine, on Tuesday afternoon after the man made the explosives claim, law enforcement officials said.

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soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. sbonnie

    I have been taking Ambien for quite a while now and I will tell you that it absolutely does make you do some strange things.. I sleep walk and sleep eat and never remember a thing.Maybe this guy was telling the truth,

    April 28, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. Nurse in PA

    mmm...I think he must have had some underlying mental health problems, sleeping pills do not cause a person to act like that.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. cmgdm

    I think this guy is telling the truth, people who have taken Ambien and had a bad reaction have been known to do all sorts of crazy things. There are plenty of web sites and blogs with horror stories that these drugs have led to. Yes, he made a terrible mistake but loads of people have taken sleeping pills on flights, so don't be so quick to judge.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. baby huey MD

    Idiosyncratic (wacky) or even paradoxical (opposite) reactions to meds are rare but do happen. For example, a small percentage of people flip out and become very agitated or even violent after taking benzodiazipines like Valium. Who knows what happened, but it's not impossible that this guy had a bad reaction to meds.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  5. OARFNY

    Who knew? This is really scintillating. Not only is he not at fault now he has somebody to sue! What a great idea............a stupid claim and a lawsuit. That's never happened.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. Leah

    Actually, Chris, that wouldn't surprise me. I'm NOT condoning what he did, nor am I making excuses for him, but I've seen firsthand the kinds of effects Ambien can have. I was staying with a friend on Ambien, and she woke me up in the middle of the night because she got in her truck and tried to ram the gate in her driveway open. She was having a dream she was being chased, and she was trying to get away! Thank goodness she had a gated driveway, or she may have gotten seriously hurt! IF IT'S TRUE that Stansberry took a sleeping pill and suffered ill effects, you have no idea WHAT he may have been dreaming of that triggered such a reaction, Chris. As a former military member with 2 deployments under his belt, he very well could have dreamed of bombs. I know I still do, and I've been out of the military for 2 years!

    April 28, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Lindsay

    I've taken sleeping pills before and have awoken to find people telling me that I had been sleepwalking and doing and saying things that I was not aware of what I've been doing.

    If this is what happened, I feel bad for him and believe him.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. Victoria

    It does not seem unreasonable to me to make certain assumptions about some Muslims. Who was it that crashed into the World Trade Center?

    April 28, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. margy

    I do believe his story could be true. People act differently and strangley to certain medications. People should really do a 'test run' to see how it is going to affect them( before a flight), maybe he would not of taking it knowing the way it affected him.
    I should imagine he is very embarrassed today, so give him the benefit of the doubt! We just don't know.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. Edward C.

    Awesome!!!! So that is how I can get away with anything now? Just blame it on taking a pill. Thanks for the new strategy. I can't wait to put it to action....

    April 28, 2010 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  11. anthony

    Taking Ambien is definitely a plausible excuse. If you are not in bed attempting sleep then you will black out and basically be awake.

    I know this from experience, I had several bad episodes until I finally quit taking them.

    This guy could've taken a sleeping pill thinking he would sleep through the flight, but was somehow to nervous to sleep and the medication took over. Either that or he was Muslim

    April 28, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Doctor C

    You guys think and act like those 12 angry men, lol. Come on, people, the guy fought in Iraq, God knows what kind of PTSD symproms he's gighting every day, he took a "sleeping pill" which might well have caused disinhibition with anterograde amnesia (benzos, ambien, Lunesta all can do this). And you are so righteously ready to punish him? What about presumption of innocence? Ever heard of it? Punish those who send him to Iraq.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    In reference to the multiple comments regarding the use of Ambien – has anyone heard of "personal responsibility"? Why would you even consider taking a sleep inducing pill inside a tube of artificially created atmosphere traveling at 35000 feet without knowing EXACTLY what the side effects of that pill will be? This is a prescription hypnotic...... of course it's going to have side effects!!! So, if we are going to give any type of credence to an excuse of "I was on Ambien", why don't we just ask how many other criminals were on narcotics when they committed crimes and give them a free pass as well?? Wake up people – "political correctness" and this far reaching "awww could happen to anyone" mentality is what is going to destroy us all. Again.... 2 words: Personal Responsibility.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    There is no acceptable excuse, hopefully he'll be on the "no fly list" forever. People have to be held accountable for their actions when they put others in danger.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  15. lighthouseboy

    I took Ambien on my first transaltantic flight (DFW-LGW). It knocked me out. I have NO memory of landing at Gatwick yet I successfully got thru customs, got luggage and got a ticket on the Gatwick Express [my first memory of London was walking around Victoria Station]. I was in a haze for 3 days (yes, the 3 days I was in London) and had zero appetite. Ambien makes jetlag worst. Now, I eat the evening meal, pop 2 Tylenol PMs and I have woke up fresh in London, Paris, Auckland and Melbourne.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
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