Northern Ireland

Belfast airport: Chicago flight diverted 'after nuts row'

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Media captionThe court heard that the man demanded nuts and crackers

A plane en route from Rome to Chicago was forced to divert to Belfast after a man got angry over nuts and crackers, a court has heard.

The United Airlines flight landed at the international airport on Saturday, dumping 50,000 litres of fuel.

Jeremiah Mathias Thede, 42, an American citizen with an address of The Alameda, Berkeley, California, was arrested and appeared before magistrates on Monday.

He was charged with endangering the safety of the plane.

He was also accused of being disorderly and assaulting one of the cabin crew.

Police constable William Robinson, who is in charge of the case, said he had been told that 15 minutes into the flight, Mr Thede had got to his feet while the seatbelt sign was still on.

He was asked by a cabin crew member to return to his seat but refused to do so until he was given nuts and crackers, the constable said.

Ten minutes later, he got up again, asked for more and was refused. He then shouted and was abusive, the court in Coleraine was told.

The cabin crew member felt threatened by his demeanour and alerted the captain as they were getting close to the Atlantic Ocean, Mr Robinson said.

The court heard allegations that Mr Thede squared up to cabin crew, blocked aisles, lifted bags in and out of the overhead lockers, kept going to the toilet and acted in such a way that other passengers felt threatened.

Mr Robinson said the captain took the decision to divert to Belfast because of Mr Thede's "erratic behaviour".

The airline estimates compensation costs could be up to £350,000.

The constable said Mr Thede claimed there was a conspiracy against him and he was being "picked on".

Mr Thede was remanded in custody to appear before the court by video link next week.