Man charged with assaulting 2 passengers on NJ-Miami flight

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American Airlines flew a Boeing 737 Max with paying passengers from Miami to New York on Tuesday, the plane’s first commercial flight in U.S. skies since it was grounded after two deadly crashes. (Credit: WFOR via CBS News)

A man has been arrested and charged with assaulting two passengers on a flight from New Jersey to Florida last week.

Authorities said United Flight 728 took off shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday from Newark Liberty International Airport bound for Miami. About 50 minutes into the flight, John Yurkovich went to the rear of the aircraft and acted erratically upon return, yelling and demanding water before taking a pill, a passenger told authorities.

Authorities said Yurkovich was found to have about 2 grams of methamphetamine and is also facing a state drug charge.

According to the criminal complaint filed by FBI Special Agent Joseph Hamski of Charleston, to which city the flight was diverted, the passenger said Yurkovich backed into him, and when he tried to keep Yurkovich from falling onto him, the other man became enraged.

The passenger said the defendant removed his mask and began spittle-laced screaming into his face, then punched him several times, Hamski said. Another passenger said the victim was punched seven or eight times. The victim said his glasses were broken and a cut on his ear required seven stitches, Hamski said.

Several passengers intervened and restrained Yurkovich, one sustaining a broken nose, Hamski said. The flight was diverted to Charleston International Airport after the pilot declared a level-three emergency.

Federal authorities have charged Yurkovich with assault and assault resulting in serious bodily injury as well as criminal acts on an aircraft. A message was sent Sunday to the attorney representing him.

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