Flight returns, 2 women facing charges

TORONTO (AP) — Two Canadian women are facing charges after authorities say they drank their duty free alcohol in the flight’s bathroom, triggered the fire alarm with a cigarette and got into a fight each other, forcing a Sunwing flight bound for Cuba to return to Toronto under a military escort.

Peel Region police Thursday said Lilia Ratmanski, 25, and Milana Muzikante, 26, have been charged with smoking on board an aircraft and endangering its safety.

The airline said the flight had left Toronto late Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 when it was disrupted by “two unruly female passengers.”

Sunwing vice-president Janine Chapman said the passengers had consumed a “significant quantity of their duty-free alcohol purchase in the lavatory.”

She said they lit a cigarette, triggering the smoke alarm, and “proceeded to get into a physical altercation with each other and made a threat against the aircraft.”

NORAD said it scrambled two CF-18 fighter jets based out of Bagotville, Quebec, to escort Flight 656 back to Toronto.

Major Julie Roberge, a spokeswoman for NORAD based in Colorado Springs, Colo., said the CF-18s met the aircraft at the Canadian border and did not venture into American airspace.

She said the pilot had decided to turn the plane around over South Carolina and “that’s when NORAD got involved,” adding there was no escort in U.S. airspace.

Roberge said the aircraft landed at Toronto’s Pearson International airport at about 8:30 p.m. and that the CF-18 escort lasted just four minutes. She called the military escort a precautionary measure and a standard procedure in such incidents.

Peel Region Const. Thomas Ruttan said the entire plane “erupted in cheers” when the two were removed from the aircraft after it arrived back at Pearson. He said the pair will appear in court later Thursday for a bail hearing and will also face additional charges including mischief endangering life and uttering threats.

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