Pilot accused of trying to stop engines midflight after taking magic mushrooms asked ‘Am I dead? Is this hell?’


The off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to shut down the engines of an airborne plane last month after taking magic mushrooms thought he was dreaming and had questioned if he was in hell, he said in an interview published Saturday.

Joseph Emerson, 44, told The New York Times in a jailhouse interview in Portland, Oregon, that when he took the psychedelics around a campfire — which he had never taken before — on Oct. 20, two days before the incident, he dwelled on events in his past.

“I thought of a lot of traumatic things in that time where I was like, ‘Am I dead? Is this hell?’” he told the Times. “I’m reliving that trauma.”

On Oct. 22, as Emerson, who was off duty, was sitting in a jump seat of the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines flight when he allegedly tried shut down the plane’s engines by activating a fire suppression system.

Emerson told a Portland, Oregon, police officer that he thought he was dreaming and wanted to wake up, according to court documents, something Emerson also told the Times.

“I thought it would stop both engines, the plane would start to head towards a crash, and I would wake up,” Emerson told the newspaper.

Emerson also said he had been depressed and that he believed he was experiencing a mental breakdown, authorities have said.

The plane, Flight 2059 operated by Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air, was traveling from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco and was diverted to Portland.

Emerson is being held without bail at the Multnomah County Detention Center in Portland, jail records show.

He has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder and other charges in state court. He has pleaded not guilty. He has also been charged federally with interfering with a flight crew.

Emerson’s attorney, Noah Horst, has said that “he would never intentionally hurt another person,” and that “Joe was not under the influence of any intoxicants when he boarded that flight.”

No one was injured in the incident.

This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com



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