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Man dies after disrupting LA flight to JFK Airport

Tim Smith, an airline representative, said William Lee, 48, was a large man who was restrained in plastic handcuffs on his New York-bound flight Friday night after demanding a drink just 45 minutes before the plane landed."He stood up in the aisle and loudly announced that he wanted a beer and he wanted it right now and he wasn't going to wait," Smith said. "When a flight attendant asked him to wait, he did not accept that answer, did not sit down, continued to loudly ask to be served a beer, including yelling at the flight attendants in the other aisle."Lee was on a Boeing 767 flight with 146 other passengers when he began acting up, Smith said.Smith said Lee had consumed two other beers and one vodka drink on the five-hour trip before he began insisting on a third beer. "He was getting louder and more belligerent," Smith said. The flight attendant in charge of the airplane came back to sit with Lee to discuss the situation with him."She tried to calm the gentleman and get him settled down a little bit, asked him again to sit down," Smith said. "That appeared to calm him down for a little bit."But eventually his anger over being denied alcohol flared up again."He physically pushed, shoved the flight attendant who'd been talking to him, got up in the aisle and was loudly ranting again," Smith said. "When he pushed the flight attendant and shoved her, seven nearby passengers, all male, who'd been listening to this, got up and tried to restrain the gentleman." The group restrained Lee, who was immediately turned over to law enforcement authorities after the plane landed."He still remained very, very agitated and out of control, trying to fight every step of the way," Smith said.It took eight to 10 Port Authority officers to restrain him at the airport.At that point, Lee began to have trouble breathing, Smith said. Port Authority spokesman Alan Hicks said Lee was taken to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Neither Port Authority police nor the medical examiner's office could speculate on the cause of death.A medical examiner's spokeswoman said Tuesday that Lee's autopsy had not yet been completed. The agency was awaiting further toxicology studies Tuesday, the spokeswoman said. She said the medical examiner had not determined whether there was any foul play involved in Lee's death.Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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