(JetBlue attendant article updated with information on his folk-hero status.)
NEW YORK (
flight attendant Steve Slater is in the media spotlight after he posted bail and was released from jail on Tuesday.
It has been two days since Slater used the emergency exit slide to get off a plane after a heated argument with a passenger, and his 15 minutes of fame have turned him into a working-class hero.
After the flight Slater was working on from Pittsburgh landed at Kennedy International Airport in New York, he allegedly cursed at an uncooperative passenger before grabbing a beer from the beverage cart and deploying the aircraft's emergency exit chute as the plane was taxiing to the gate.
JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater in a screen grab from MySpace
Slater was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment and criminal mischief, and he posted the $2,500 bail set by a judge at his arraignment on Tuesday morning. He will face up to 7 years in prison if convicted.
Many are rallying around Slater, writing words of encouragement and understanding on the
page on Facebook. The page was set up by Gary Baumgardner, who says he is Slater's close friend.
"Steven Slater did what most airline crew members feel like doing on a daily basis," reads the page. "If you are a crew member or even a frequent flyer you know the kind of absurd treatment we can get from passengers. So make things simple: We are not condoning what Steven did. However one can understand why he did what he did."
Howard Turman, Slater's court-appointed lawyer, argued that the flight attendant had followed the proper safety procedures for activating the emergency exit slide. He said his actions were not reckless, but justified by the behavior of the passengers on the flight, who he said had been verbally and physically abusive towards Mr. Slater.
Apparently the argument leading up to his dramatic exit started when a passenger got out of his seat to retrieve a bag from an overhead compartment while the plane was still in motion. Slater asked him to sit down and when he would not, an argument erupted. Somehow the flight attendant was hit in the head with the luggage from the compartment, and he lost his temper.
Do You Side With the Slide?
Slater apparently cursed at the passenger who refused to apologize. Then he got on the PA system and continued to direct obscenities at the passenger and the entire plane.
He slid down the inflatable slide, ran to his car and drove to his home in Belle Harbor, Queens where he was arrested.
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