Northern Ireland

Jeremiah Mathis Thede found not guilty of acting in manner that could have endangered aircraft

Jeremiah Mathis Thede Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Jeremiah Mathis Thede, from California, denied a charge of acting in a manner likely to negligently endanger an aircraft

An American man accused of acting in a manner that could have endangered an aircraft after he asked for pre-flight snacks has been found not guilty by a jury at Antrim Crown Court.

Jeremiah Mathis Thede, 42, was on an 11-hour United Airlines flight from Italy to the US on 20 June last year when he asked for crackers before the plane took off.

The United Airlines transatlantic service diverted to Belfast after flight attendants became worried by the behaviour of Mr Thede.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Thede's solicitor Patrick Madden said: "The prosecution case and the decision to divert the flight was all based on information which is inaccurate from the cabin crew, it was based on speculation, misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

"In fact, there was simply no credible evidence in this case to suggest that Mr Thede had acted in any way to endanger this flight."

The Californian had denied being aggressive towards cabin crew after they refused him pre-flight crackers.

The court had heard that after asking for crackers, the crew claimed he had alarmed passengers with his erratic actions.

But, Mr Thede said it was fair to complain after he was refused the snacks.

The Californian claimed he had never before been denied the free snacks in years of frequent flying.

He said he was down to his last dollars and had eaten only an apple during a delay of several hours at Rome airport at the end of a lengthy trip through Europe.

Mr Thede, from the Alameda in Berkeley, had travelled from London to Rome to meet family and was going home.

When he boarded the aircraft he wanted to sleep but was unable to do so because of hunger, he said.

A senior cabin crew member had warned Mr Thede about his actions before the captain decided to abort the flight.

Mr Thede said he felt the warning "was unnecessary and unwarranted".

The plane had to dump thousands of litres of fuel before making the unscheduled stop at Belfast International Airport.

The 264 passengers had to wait almost 24 hours before the plane could take off again.

More on this story