(CNN) – One in two passengers who disembarked a Delta flight with their dog when the plane rolled onto a runway felt they had to leave or they would lose control, according to a hearing on Tuesday.
The two passengers and the dog were on board a flight to Atlanta at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Monday when one of the passengers to the east opened a cabin door and activated the slide shortly before take-off to exit the plane.
According to Lenis Valens, a spokeswoman for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, Antonio Murdock, 31, and Brianna Greco, 23, of Florida are facing criminal charges.
Murdock was also charged with criminal calamity and reckless endangerment, Valens said.
During Murdock’s trial Tuesday in New York City Criminal Court in Queens, authorities said a flight attendant who was on the plane told them she saw a male and a female passenger walking through the plane.
According to the flight attendant, she essentially heard the male passenger, identified by authorities as Murdock, say, “I have to get off the plane, I don’t want to sit here, I’ll open the door.”
Murdock then allegedly pushed past the flight attendant and opened a door that said “Emergency Exit,” causing the attached slide to unfold and inflate. The man then picked up his dog and, according to the testimony, got off the slide. The dog is a greyhound named Rain, reported the CNN subsidiary WCBS.
Greco followed Murdock down the slide, authorities said. The couple and dog then walked away from the aircraft and onto the taxiway.
They were later found in a restricted area, authorities said.
The flight attendant said there was no situation on the plane that required Murdock to open the emergency door, according to the court case.
Jubril Oladiran, a Murdock attorney, did not comment on CNN when contacted. CNN is trying to solicit Greco for comment and it is unclear if she has legal representation.
Casey Johnson, a Manhattan resident who flies home to his family in Panama City Beach, Fla., Told CNN he swapped places with the couple and their dog at the gate.
Johnson said the couple were pleasant and nothing out of the ordinary during the interaction.
He said the man identified as Murdock by authorities was “spoken softly”.
Murdock asked to switch ranks with Johnson, he said, so they could have the last aisle of the plane to accommodate their dog.
The plane was mostly full, with the exception of the center seats, which were left open as per Delta’s Covid-19 policy. However, minutes later, the pair moved back up a few rows, Johnson said.
“I actually remember thinking, ‘Well, you just asked me to swap rows with you because you wanted to be back, and now you suddenly decided you wanted to be forward,'” said he.
Johnson, who was wearing headphones when the plane rolled onto the tarmac, later noticed some excitement.
“And the next thing I know, I look up as we move and I just see … I see a lot of people getting up and I see like four people running to the front of the plane. And at this point, I have to May have been passengers running to try to stop the person, “Johnson said, noting that he hadn’t seen the couple and dog when they jumped off the plane, but saw that the emergency exit was at the front of the plane in near the cockpit was open.
Johnson said the pilot had told passengers over the cabin speakers that the slide had been deployed and the door had been opened, but did not state that the passengers had escaped.
Johnson said the plane sat on the tarmac for more than an hour before returning to the gate.
After Murdock and Greco got off the plane, the plane returned to the gate and rescheduled customers normally, Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said. The airline was able to accommodate the remaining passengers on alternative flights, he said.
“Maintenance technicians have evaluated the aircraft and (it) is scheduled to return to service tonight,” said Durrant. He said Delta could not comment further.
Murdock will appear in court on February 9, and Greco is due to appear on March 21, the Queens prosecutor said.
Valens, spokeswoman for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, said the dog accompanying the two had been taken to a Brooklyn shelter.
Greco received a receipt to pick up the dog, Valens said.
In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the incident and arrests and referred additional questions to Delta and local authorities.
CNN’s Ganesh Setty, Laura Ly, Hollie Silverman and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.