Plane Forced To Turn Back After Instagram Star Yells He Is Infected With Coronavirus
Potok Philippe, real name James Potok, was arrested and charged with mischief on Monday after crew on board the WestJet plane from Toronto to Jamaica were alerted to his actions and the jet was forced to turn back. A second flight was also cancelled as a result of the incident in a report by Daily Mail.
The 28-year-old from Vaughan, told City News ‘it was simply a joke’ after he told the 243 passengers;
‘Can I get everybody’s attention, please. I just came back from Huwan province, the capital of the coronavirus. I’m not feeling too well. Thank you.’
Potok, an aspiring musician who boasts more than 30,000 followers on Instagram, defended his actions. He says:
“It would be something else if I said hey guys I have a bomb strapped to me, I have a weapon on me, people blew it out of proportion. To me it was simply a joke. About mid-way through the flight, I stood up, pulled my video camera out. I was going to post it to Instagram, send it to 6ixbuzz so it goes viral.”
Within 15 minutes later airline staff asked him to put a mask and gloves on.
He later apologised for his action, saying he has no idea Coronavirus is an epidemic and was just pranking people.
“I’m very, very sorry for my ignorance and not understanding that its an epidemic, that people hear the word and it becomes synonymous with threats. I thought it would spark a reaction. I did not think what I was doing would be considered illegal [or] warrant that type of response. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best thing to do.”
Investigators from Peel Regional Police Airport Division Criminal Investigation Bureau confirmed Potok was assessed by medical staff upon arrival at Pearson Airport and deemed to be symptom-free.
For his actions, Potok will appear at the Ontario Court of Justice on Monday, March 9.
There are four confirmed cases of coronavirus in Canada. The death toll in mainland China from the virus has risen to 425, with the total number of cases now standing at 20,438.