An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to turn off the plane’s engines mid-flight told investigators that he had taken “magic mushrooms” 48 hours before the incident, court records show. The pilot was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder.
Joseph D. Emerson, 44, tried to turn off the plane’s engines during a flight from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco. According to the airline, quick actions by the captain and first officer prevented a complete engine failure and a potential disaster resulting in the death of 83 people on board the plane.
He took “magic mushrooms” and did not sleep
The website of the American station CNN – citing the prosecutors’ statement – wrote on Wednesday that Emerson told investigators that he “consumed magic mushrooms” about 48 hours before the incident in the cockpit. He also said he had not slept 40 hours before the flight, according to a separate federal court document.
Emerson told police that while on the plane, he thought he was dreaming and believed that pulling the handles on the fire suppression system that cuts off the flow of fuel to the plane’s engines would wake him up, court documents described. They confirmed that Emerson traveled in the cockpit, just behind the captain and first officer, which is permitted for off-duty pilots. It was determined that the confrontation occurred when he reached for the controls of the fire protection system.
It was reported that at that point one of the pilots “grabbed Emerson’s wrists and (the co-pilot) reported that they struggled for a few seconds, after which Emerson stopped and insisted that he was OK.”
The documents also show that the pilot was struggling with depression and the recent death of a friend. A separate federal criminal complaint said the man was having a nervous breakdown.
Matt Johnson, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who studies psychedelics and other drugs, explained to CNN that “it is highly unlikely that psilocybin (a psychoactive substance found naturally in numerous species of hallucinogenic mushrooms – ed.) would still be in the pilot’s system 48 hours after use, but it is possible that he felt its effects lasting.
Johnson compared using these types of mushrooms to drinking alcohol. Although a person is not intoxicated the day after drinking, the effects of alcohol may impair his or her behavior or ability to function. He also stated that the possible lingering effects of psilocybin, depression and lack of sleep may have resulted in a “perfect storm” in the body during which Emerson experienced behavioral changes.
On Tuesday Emerson was accused of trying to crash the plane Alaska Airlines. He was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder.
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Main photo source: Reuters