A drunken Sri Lankan cricketer caused panic on a packed British Airways passenger flight when he tried to open the cabin door at 35,000ft.
In his stupor he tugged away for up to two minutes at the exterior door before telling BA cabin crew on board the packed Boeing 777 that he had mistaken it for the toilet.
The incident alarmed eye-witnesses among the 229 passengers on board flight BA 2158 as the Sri Lankan cricket team flew back high over the Atlantic ocean from St Lucia to London Gatwick after playing against the West Indies in the Tri Nations Tour.
The team had boarded in Grenada for the overnight flight which stopped over in St Lucia before landing at Gatwick just before 8am Monday.
Witness Charlene Francis, 26, from Willesden in London was just feet away from the unfolding drama with her one year-old daughter ‘TJ’, her mother Linda and sleeping brother Kevin, when the incident happened in economy class about six hours into an eight hour flight from St Lucia to London’s Gatwick Airport.
The recruitment consultant who is on maternity leave said: ‘It was pretty frightening. I’m a nervous flyer anyway but things had been fine until then. I was awake. My daughter had been crying. So I saw everything.’
She said the man wrestling with the door was among a group of cricket players wearing the blue Sri Lankan polo-shirt team uniform with their country’s name in yellow lettering.
‘Suddenly he came over and tried to open the cabin door several times. It went on for a few minutes. He was pulling quite heavily.’
‘The BA flight attendants came running down the aisle and tried to calm him down. He seemed quite disoriented. At one stage he was leaning against my daughters cot.’
She heard the man tell cabin crew that he had been looking for the toilet – an account confirmed by BA.
Mrs Francis said: ‘It was very scary. He looked very dazed or drunk. He was very tall and wearing black and red ‘Dre’ headphones.
‘He had a blue polo shirt and the team logo along with his team-mates.
‘Some of his team-mates were shouting and telling him to stop. I was just a few feet away. My mum was really upset. Thank goodness he was stopped.
‘Somebody said they had been drinking for four hours before they got on the plane.’
BA said: ‘During the flight a man got up and tried to go to the toilet.
‘But instead of going to the toilet he tried to open the aircraft door in mid-flight.
‘The event was linked to “an element of alcohol”. He explained his mistake and cabin crew accepted it in good faith. Cabin crew reassured customers who witnessed the event.’
BA stressed that it is impossible to open the pressurised door in mid-flight and that at no point was the safety of passengers compromised.
Security were informed on the ground but police were not called or involved.
After leaving the BA flight at Gatwick, the player and his team mates subsequently boarded another plane belonging to another airline taking them on to Sri Lanka.
Officials confirmed witness accounts that the man at the centre of the drunken escapade was a Sri Lankan cricketer but declined to name him.
A British Airways spokesman said:’ There was a minor incident onboard the BA2158 service from St Lucia to Gatwick involving a customer who we believe had been drinking’
He added: ‘It is impossible to open an aircraft door when it is at high altitude and at no point was the aircraft in any danger.
‘Our cabin crew are highly trained to deal with such incidents and offered re-assurance to customers who were sitting near to the door.’
The West Indies beat Sri Lanka by six wickets.
Read more: DailyMail