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. rz

    no excuses. Ambien or smanbien. Know the consequences of what you put in your mouth and what comes out of it or keep it shut or pay the price of letting what comes in and what comes out.

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

    Agree, give this guy a break, serving in Iraq is enough to cause a PTSD episode like he had. Adding a sleeping pill e.g. Ambien to an already overactive mind can be dangerous. These drugs are not simple sleeping pills for some, they really can alter brain chemistry. I hope they go easy on him, there certainly is plenty of documentation on what people have done on a simple Ambien, Tiger Woods took Ambien and then drive into that tree.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. bettyboop33

    Terrorists come in ALL walks of life. This man is American, he BEHAVED like a terrorist,
    and as usual because he isnt Muslim or a person of color. The T word isnt used.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jen

    Well, if he was a congressman it would have been completely trustworthy... They've already proven that there is issues with taking sleeping pills.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  5. WPC

    My girlfriend took ambien and would wake up in the middle of the night saying she was taking the dog to the dog show. All kinds of crazy stuff she wouldnt remember when she woke up the next morning. It was like she smoked some angel dust or something. I had to hide the keys all the time. Sleeping medicine can make you do crazy stuff.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mike, Cleveland Ohio

    If he took Ambian or a strong benzodiazapene like Versed .. his story is entirely plausable. I know I've been given Versed to "forget" about some medical procedures and during one of them I had to be restrained by the staff because I got into a fight with my friend who was trying to put my jacket on me to take me home.

    I don't remember any of it.

    April 28, 2010 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kim

    I agree with David and the Dr on this one. Especially if he took Ambien. Don't be quick to judge. Several years ago I took Ambien one night (and ONLY one night!). I was awakened by voices outside my house. I was scared to death. I waited, kept hearing people talking. I realized people were outside my house. I got my gun, it was loaded. I knocked on my son's bedroom door, he opened it up & about freaked out with me standing there holding a gun. I told him someone was outside of the house. I called the law. The law came, checked everything out. By this time the 3 dogs were up barking and carrying on. The law said they couldn't find anything and didn't see where anyone had been. Then they asked had my dogs heard anything? DUH! The dogs had never gotten up till the law got there. No one was messing around my house. I hallucinated, heard voices that weren't there, got a loaded gun, scared the crap out of my son and called the law for no reason. Fortunately, I didn't shoot at a neighbor or anything stupid. So yes some medication can make you do some seriously STUPID things. I NEVER took Ambien again!

    April 28, 2010 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ashwin

    Nothing worse than a bunch of people with ZERO medical education commenting on what are reasonable and unreasonable side effects of a medication. Sleep aids can have a number of side effects, and the ones this person describes are within the scope of medically accepted side effects. I've seen these side effects first hand. Patients who get some of these meds can be sweet and kind, and after taking a medication, can become combative, hostile, and sometimes violent. Chris, you are a fool for comparing the side effects of illegal narcotics to those of legal, prescription medications. If this guy had been drinking and then took the ambien, I agree with you, this is his fault. If he had just taken a medication to help him fall asleep and had a bad reaction, then this is 100% not his fault.

    And Victoria, just keep your hate speech to yourself. Using your logic, who blew up the Oklahoma City building? I guess we should also stereotype all conservative, white males too, huh?

    April 28, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  9. HoJo

    And of course there is no in between any more. You're either sitting, silent, still and straight forward in your seat or you're interfearing with a flight crew and need to be arrested.

    April 28, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. CGW- NJ

    Perhaps this man had been experiencing anxiety and thought that during the flight a single sleeping pill would keep him calm. Blame the doctors who prescribe this stuff without monitoring or warning patients. It doesn't sound as if this man intended anyone harm and given his two tours of duty I am more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. People ddidn't seem to flip out this much over the guy who caused the plane diversion because he was locked in the bathroom smoking. Now that's stupid and he should have paid handsomely for the trouble he caused.

    April 28, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. nodat1

    Fine, he claims he took a sleeping pill and it made say all those things, then charge him for the cost landing the plane in Maine and allow the passenger to sue him for being terrified and inconvenienced, maybe next time people will think before they start popping meds just to cope with life.

    Huey lewis will need to revamp his song “I want a new drug” to include the phrase won’t make false claims about bombs ops I’m mean explosive on a plane

    April 28, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  12. Nurse in MN

    Nurse in PA- I doubt you are a nurse or you would know that certain sleeping pills do indeed cause strange behavior; Ambien being one of them. I would wait for the lab results before commenting.

    April 28, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  13. hangdiver

    I've taken sleeping pills but never had a reaction. Some people have terrible reactions. I remember a congressman stopped at night in his car in DC wearing no pants going to vote on a bill when there was no bill or vote. IIRC there was sleeping pills and alcohol involved.
    After some crazy private intelligent mission he has a beer and then pops a sleeping pill which he's never done before and BAM. Do ya know what that cr@p does to your brain.

    If you mix alcohol with pills all bets are off!

    April 28, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. David

    Well, you see Chris my comment was not the dumbest comment ever. You were speaking out of ignorance. However, I do agree with some of your statements on your comment at 9:52 AM. The thing is with Ambien you never know what the side effects are until you actually take it. It varies from person to person. Some people do not experience side effects. His story is plausible and what likely may have happened is that a friend of his could have given him the pill so take for the plane ride. People loan prescriptions to their friends all the time. It's quite common and people take them without knowing the side effects. However, what I do agree with is your statements on personal responsibility. The biggest difference here is that ambien is a prescription drug and your comparison to criminals doesn't wash because criminals are taking **illegal** drugs. I took ambien once, I made love to my wife, and I didn't remember at all. There were tell tale signs in the morning that prompted me to ask her if we were intimate the night before. That was, and will be, the last time I use ambien.

    April 28, 2010 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. justabaddream

    Could be Ambien. Could be a nightmare. Who has never had a bad dream? Who has never said something in their dream they didn't do in real life? Just last night I was a secret agent with a gun . . . From the beginning it said he "mumbled" the words, as if asleep. All makes sense to me. Besides, mumbling something in your sleep is far from standing up and shouting that you are hijacking the flight.

    April 28, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
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