A Cuban pilot seeking political asylum locked himself in the cockpit of his Bahamas-bound plane and flew it to Miami as the 16 passengers calmly munched sandwiches and watched the crew try to pry open the cockpit door.
The Cubana de Aviacion twin-engine turboprop landed Sunday at Miami International Airport. The pilot asked for asylum and was taken into custody by the FBI."The crew told us that the pilot asked the co-pilot to go get him something to drink," said passenger Guido Pietroni. "When he did, the captain locked himself in the cockpit."
The Cuban American National Foundation identified the pilot as Basilio Garcia Breto. He has family in Miami.
The Miami FBI office would not say if he was still in custody Monday.
Passenger Karl Lindquist of Key West said travelers remained calm during the flight.
"The crew was trying to pry the door open with a screwdriver and beating on it as the stewardesses passed out these trays with little pieces of rolled up ham and cheese and a piece of bread," he said.
Lindquist said he and his wife didn't realize the plane had been diverted until the captain announced the plane would be landing in the Bahamas in a few minutes.
"We looked out the window and saw parts of south Miami; so then we knew everything wasn't right," he said.
The passengers were five Americans, five Bahamians, two Spaniards, two Italians, a Canadian and a Colombian resident of the United States, said FBI spokesman Paul Miller. There were six crew members in addition to the pilot, he said.
Two crew members "grabbed the pilot as he came down the ramp at the airport and started to knock him down, but security people got a hold of them before they could do anything," Lindquist said.
Two of the other Americans on board were from Tampa and one was from Seattle, Lindquist said.