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Published: Wednesday, 10/10/2001

Sylvania girls aboard during air scare

Two 14-year-old Sylvania girls and two parents quickly figured it was more than just turbulence when the American Airlines jetliner began swaying from side to side as it neared Chicago.

“Suddenly, I felt a jerk as if we were going through an air pocket,” said Ashley Archambeau, a freshman at Northview High School. “Then we were swaying side to side. That's when I became scared.”

She was on the flight in which a passenger described as mentally ill broke down the cockpit door. Two pilots and several passengers subdued the man and the plane landed safely at O'Hare International Airport.

Accompanying Ashley, who recently had been ill with cancer, was Michael Archambeau, her father; Cindy Edwards, her mother, and a friend, Erika Hadley, 14, also a freshman at Northview.

Ashley was returning home from Los Angeles aboard a plane that was three-fourths full and like three of the four that were involved in the hijackings of Sept. 11. She was unable to attend Sunday night's Emmy award ceremonies that were canceled at the last minute when the U.S. airstrikes began in Afghanistan. The Make-A-Wish Foundation paid for the trip.

With about a half-hour left in the flight, the plane began flying erratically. The four were sitting near the rear of the plane.

A passenger had broken through the cockpit door, but one of the pilots not at the controls grabbed the man and called for other passengers to help restrain him, Mr. Archambeau said.

Several crew members and passengers dragged the man to a kitchen galley in a central area of the plane.

When one of the flight crew asked if there was a doctor aboard, Mr. Archambeau, a physical therapist, stepped forward.

No doctor was found, so a nurse administered sedatives kept in an aircraft medical kit after the man had been tightly strapped with demonstration seat belts. Mr. Archambeau, 50, swabbed the injection site and held him with others aiding.

Despite the drugs, the man continued to struggle. Passengers, thinking of the hijacked airliners that last month hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, worried that others might be aboard who would try to seize the plane, he said.

During the ordeal, Mr. Archambeau discovered the father of the man being restrained was on the aircraft.

“I talked to him and learned his son was a psychiatric patient,” Mr. Archambeau said. “[His son] thought the devil was on board and [the young man] was going to take control and keep the plane from crashing into the Sears Tower.

“In his own sad little world, he was trying to make sure none of us was harmed. But in doing so, he put a lot of us in peril and scared the Dickens out of most of us.”

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