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U.S. News
In-flight incident triggers lawsuit by New Castle family

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

By Torsten Ove, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Royal Jordanian Airlines Flight RJ435 was 10,000 feet above Jordan on July 5, 2000, when Mahmoud Rizq Deeb tried to storm the cockpit, opening fire with a pistol and waving a hand grenade.

A plainclothes security guard, one of two on the plane, drew his own gun and shot Deeb in the back of the head, killing him.

But Deeb had already pulled the pin on the grenade.

As he fell, it dropped from his hand, rolled down the aisle and exploded under some seats, spraying 15 people with shrapnel.

Among them was Abier B. Mansour of New Castle, who was traveling with her 5-year-old daughter, Mary Ann, and 1-year-old son, Daniel.

Yesterday in U.S. District Court, the Mansour family sued Royal Jordanian Airlines, saying security officers should have prevented Deeb from getting onto the plane with weapons and shouldn't have shot him once he was on board.

The Mansours, including Abier's husband, Samir, who was not on board, want the airline to pay the cost of their medical care, which includes treatment for shrapnel wounds to Abier and Mary Ann and therapy for post-traumatic stress for all three of them.

The suit also seeks payment for Abier's lost wages and future earning capacity, and Samir's loss of consortium with his wife.

Neither the Mansour family nor their attorney, Carmen Lamancusa, could be reached yesterday.

Arriving from New York, the Airbus A320 landed at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, and was headed for Damascus, Syria, with 84 passengers. Deeb boarded in Amman with his two small children, stashing the grenade and the pistol in a cassette recorder one of them was carrying.

As the plane climbed toward Damascus, Deeb screamed and tried to hijack the plane and reroute it to Frankfurt, Germany. He fired several shots and warned that he had a live hand grenade before the guard shot him.

In the explosion, Mary Ann suffered a shrapnel wound to her right forearm and Abier one to her right ankle. Daniel was not hit.

After the blast, the pilots returned to Amman.

In addition to allowing the weapons past metal detectors at the airport, the suit says airline security made a mistake when the guard shot the hijacker, allowing the grenade to roll free and explode. Fortunately, according to investigators, the grenade was old and not very powerful.

Deeb, a Syrian, was seeking asylum in Germany after the German Embassy in Damascus turned down his visa request.

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