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Friday, January 9, 2009

GUITARIST CHRIS LLEWELLYN helps pin down airplane nutjob

Chris Llewellyn was looking out the window of the Delta Air Lines jet when he heard the shouting. “No, no, stop,” a man screamed. “Help me, help me.” Llewellyn, an Atlanta musician, was flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles Wednesday to tape a show. One moment, he was deep in thought about his pending performance. The next, he was out of his seat, fighting a wild passenger.

The scream for help had come from an attendant on Delta Air Lines Flight 110 as the plane was only minutes from landing at Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday morning. “Once I saw him get pushed down, I knew it was kind of serious,” Chris Llewellyn said. Chris Llewellyn, a 26-year-old guitarist and bass player, was among a half dozen passengers who helped subdue a man later identified as Lawrence Johnson, 45, of Kentucky.

Chris Llewellyn said the man claimed to have a bomb after he was cornered near the drink carts at the back of the plane. But when the man jumped for an emergency exit, Chris Llewellyn said he and the others piled on, and held the man down until he could be restrained. While all this was going on, Chris Llewellyn’s band mate and roommate Brian Cohen worried about being sucked out of the airplane, “like you see in the movies.” Cohen, 25, had heard the screams, but he was seated toward the middle of the aircraft, too far away to help. He used his cellphone to snap a photo of Johnson as authorities led him off the plane.

Chris Llewellyn then headed to the studio to record a performance for NBC’s “Last Call with Carson Daly.” Their group will be the backup for hip-hop artist Asher Roth when the show airs at 1:30 a.m. Friday. No bomb was found aboard the plane, and after questioning by the FBI and airport police, federal investigators had decided not to pursue charges against Johnson, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. She said investigators concluded he should undergo a psychological evaluation.

On Thursday evening, Chris Llewellyn was in California, contemplating his pending flight home Sunday. He shrugged off the heroics. “There were six other people doing it, too,” he said. “I was just in the back of the plane, and I did what had to be done.” Cohen was already back in Atlanta Thursday, having flown home after the performance. He said he felt uneasy about flying again, but realized there was little he could do about it. “I definitely looked around at all the exits,” he said, “and realized there were too many to monitor.”

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