Colleen Walshs air rage trial gets underway
A Toronto TV broadcaster's drunken behaviour added to an already chaotic situation aboard a transatlantic flight that was diverted to St. John's for a medical emergency last spring, a provincial court heard Monday.
Colleen Walsh - the former host of the Rogers TV architecture show 'Structures' who also worked for CBC Radio, Global and CTV - is on trial in a St. John's courtroom for allegedly causing a commotion onboard the plane.
The 49-year-old has pleaded not guilty to charges of interfering with the operation of an aircraft, causing a disturbance and assault. She also faces a single charge under the Aeronautics Act of failing to comply with instructions of a crew member.
The charges stem from an incident that happened aboard a Boeing 767, which left London en route to Toronto March 31, when Walsh allegedly became unruly - shouting and cursing and then hitting another passenger in the head. It resulted in her having to be escorted off the plane when it landed in St. John's.
Her behaviour reportedly did not improve after security at St. John's International Airport called police.
The flight's service director, Guy Marion, testified the plane had to change course when a female passenger became ill, fading in and out of consciousness.
He said as crew members and a physician on board attended to the sick passenger, Walsh left her seat and approached the scene. She first asked if she could help and then inquired several times about what was going on.
"I told her help wasn't needed and to return to her seat," said Marion, adding other flight attendants told her to do the same several times.
He said with such a serious medical situation, "we needed everyone's co-operation."
Didn't sit down
However, he said, Walsh did not comply and was upsetting other passengers.
"The atmosphere was becoming uneasy," he said. "The passengers were commenting (about Walsh's behaviour).
"At this point, it had become chaotic."
Marion said Walsh was "intoxicated," slurring her words and reeking of alcohol.
He said he had served her two bottles of wine, which was "common on a seven-hour flight."
Landed in St. John's
Once the plane landed, he said, Walsh got even more out of hand.
"She wasn't happy with the fact that we landed in St. John's and having to comply with demands to sit down," he said.
Marion admitted he had a lot to do and didn't see everything.
Stan Harrington - who was seated about five rows behind where Walsh was standing - testified Walsh was not following the flight attendant's orders and was getting loud.
The 67-year-old Ontario resident said, at one point, Walsh faced passengers and shouted, "Do you people know what's going on?"
"It was pretty calm up to that point," Harrington said. "The attitude of the passengers changed after that."
He said he replied to her, "Yes, we do. Now just take your seat," and said other passengers were asking her to do the same.
Struck on head
Then, he testified, as she walked by his seat, she hit him in the head above his right ear with her hand. He said it caused his head to move to the left.
"I felt a sharp pain," he said.
Walsh was then asked to leave the plane and she was escorted out.
At several times throughout proceedings, Walsh shook her head and leaned forward to get the attention of her lawyer, Lori Marshall.
After shying away from reporters' cameras in the morning session, Walsh's attitude had changed in the afternoon and, during a break, she seemed to pose for photos.
"You might as well get a good shot of me," she said jokingly, as she faced cameras and smiled.
The trial continues today.