WFTV(MELBOURNE, Fla.) — The airport worker who hauled a suspected thief off an empty American Airlines plane at 2 a.m. Thursday in Melbourne, Florida, said he knew right away something wasn’t right about the 22-year-old.
“I knew right away — I mean we’re trained,” airport maintenance worker Shayne Graves told Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV. “No badge. Looked down, no shoe on that foot. This isn’t right. Nothing’s right about this kid.”
Nishal Kiran Sankat, 22, was charged Friday with three counts related to the alleged attempted theft of the plane: one count of unarmed burglary of an occupied conveyance, one count of trespassing in an occupied structure or conveyance, and one count of grand theft worth $100,000 or more. The burglary and theft charges are both felonies.
FBI Special Agent David Joseph Hacker testified in court Friday, saying that Sankat was set on harming himself while having no regard for the possibility of harming others as well.
“In his attempt to harm himself Mr. Sankat advised that he intended to take the aircraft in the process of harming himself,” Hacker said.
Agent Christopher Castiello with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, who also testified, said that Graves, who was working on the aircraft when Sankat came on board, told him that he took Sankat to a hanger nearby on a golf cart after noticing he did not have the proper ID to be on the aircraft. Once Graves got to the hanger with Sankat, Sankat tried to run away before Graves tackled him.
“The only thing he said when he came on the plane was that he had his pilot license,” Graves said.
Graves told WFTV that his mind immediately flashed to the terror attacks on Sept. 11.
“I said, ‘This isn’t going to happen again,'” Graves said. “He was looking around, and I said, ‘You’re coming with me. You’re coming off this airplane.’ I put him on the ground at the entrance door, got him on that golf cart, and we went into the hangar.”
Graves works the night shift at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and is an airplane and power plant technician. He started working at the airport just five months ago, though he’s been a mechanic for 25 years.
Authorities said Sankat left his car running outside the airport and he climbed the fence surrounding the facility before boarding the empty Airbus A321.
The Florida Institute of Technology released a statement confirming that Sankat was a part-time student at their school and was studying aviation management. He also has a student pilot’s license.
Sankat received a stipend from his parents to go to school and has access to his parent’s bank account.
He maintains dual citizenship with Canada and Trinidad and Tobago.
Sankat is being held without bond and is due back in court on Oct. 18.
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