JESSICA BAUTISTA & KITTY CAPARELLA
Philadelphia Daily News
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
A BLIND INTERNATIONAL interpreter who says he was dragged off a Belgium-bound flight, arrested and held in custody in Philadelphia for hours without food or water faces an arraignment Thursday.
His crime: He questioned why his U.S. Airways flight was delayed nearly two hours.
Nicola Cantisani, 61, of Brussels, Belgium, a professional translator who has been blind since birth, was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, police said.
“This is taking airplane security to a new and ridiculous level,” said his attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr. “It’s pretty crazy.”
Cantisani and his wife, Paola, were returning to Brussels April 4 after visiting family in New York. The couple changed planes at Philadelphia International Airport and boarded the 8:32 p.m. flight.
After the plane sat on the tarmac for some time, passengers were told that the flight would be delayed – without explanation, according to Cantisani. They were unable to use phones, receive attendant service or move from their seats.
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“That was the straw that unfortunately broke the camel’s back,” Cantisani said. “It just got to me: They board you and just taxi you around.”
Cantisani said he stood up to request a glass of water and to speak with the crew or captain about the delay, but was told to sit down.
In interviews in Philadelphia and later by phone from Brussels, Cantisani described what he called an “indescribable” chain of events that has given him nightmares.
“I felt I was being kidnapped – like I was a hostage,” Cantisani said of the wait.
Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, said the police were called to Gate A-19 because of a disorderly passenger.
“A passenger had become irate over the delay,” Vanore said.
Cantisani, unaware of why he was being removed, refused to leave.
He said the officers yanked Cantisani from his seat and dragged him off the plane, injuring his hand, which was gripping his seat belt . Then they forced him into a wheelchair.
At one point, an officer held him “by the throat,” he said.
Cantisani claimed he was held in police custody at the airport from about 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. without food, water or access to his phone or outside communication.
This article was posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 2:34 pm