EXCLUSIVE: Man takes woman hostage on flight to SLC, Good Samaritan steps in

Nov 24, 2022, 3:14 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2024, 3:41 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A Provo man is recounting an unnerving assault on a flight to Salt Lake City where a Syracuse man is accused of taking a woman hostage with a razor and making bizarre demands to the whole plane.

That man, identified as 41-year-old Merrill Fackrell, is now facing federal charges.

Abraham Neiderhauser was headed home after a five-month dream trip around Europe, with the home stretch being a flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Salt Lake City International Airport Monday.

Around two hours from landing in Salt Lake, Neiderhauser heard a man start shouting two rows in front of him.

“He’s grabbing the woman next to him, he has something in his hand,” Neiderhauser recounted. “He says, ‘Don’t worry, she’s going to be fine. She’s going to be fine,’ and it was kind of a weird thing and kind of ominous, too, the way he was grabbing her. And it’s like, what is that? Is that like a weapon or something?”

He would later find out Fackrell was allegedly holding a straight-edge razor up to the woman’s throat.

“He’s like, ‘This ain’t no 9/11 sh**,'” Neiderhauser said. “He’s like, ‘Just land the plane, and everyone will be fine.’ We didn’t understand why he wanted the plane landed.”

Meanwhile, the woman began to struggle, and Neiderhauser said the man was grabbing her. She eventually managed to break free and escaped to another part of the plane.

“Everyone was really scared. The area around where him and Rob were kind of engaging just cleared out, it’s like the whole front section of the plane was empty. All the airline crew was gone,” Neiderhauser said. “For this period of like, I don’t know how long it was, 30 minutes, everyone’s just kind of in suspense at what’s going to happen. Rob was very brave, you know, engaging like this.”

Eventually, Neiderhauser said Rob got the man to calm down and give up his weapon. Rob then sat next to the man for the duration of the flight until they landed and police came on board to take Fackrell into custody.

Neiderhauser took video of police hauling Fackrell off the plane and Fackrell gets in one last word, telling everyone, “Peace out.”

Rob is seen sitting back down in his seat.

“You could kind of feel the whole plane breathe this collective sigh of relief,” Neiderhauser said, later adding, “after he left, everyone clapped for Rob because they were really grateful for him. I think for a lot of people, it was really traumatic.”

Utahn charged with assault after allegedly holding blade to woman’s throat on flight

According to a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah, Fackrell was sitting in a window seat next to the woman as she traveled with her husband. Fackrell was talking to the woman, the complaint said, and had several alcoholic drinks.

Eventually, she put headphones on to watch a movie. It was at that point, the complaint alleges, that Fackrell told the woman to pause her movie, and she realized he was holding what looked to be a knife inches from her throat.

The complaint says Fackrell told the husband to “get the (expletive) out of here,” and the husband ran to the front of the plane to get help from a flight attendant. The rest of what Neiderhauser recounted ensued.

The knife-like object turned out to be a Facón wood-handled straight-edge razor with a one-to-two-inch blade, according to the FBI.

Fackrell has been federally charged with carrying a weapon on an aircraft and assault with a dangerous weapon in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.

KSL 5 TV Live


A SLCPD officer, assigned to the Central Patrol Division Bike Squad, conducts a search as part of a...

Mary Culbertson

Police: Three-day drug operation leads to 54 arrests, seizure of 1,000 fentanyl pills

The Salt Lake City Police Department released footage of a three-day drug operation it conducted along the Jordan River Trail, which resulted in 54 arrests and over 1,000 suspected fentanyl pills being seized, among other drugs.

17 hours ago

Sandra Young went missing from the Portland metro area more than five decades ago. (Oregon State Po...

Dalia Faheid, CNN

Remains of Oregon teenager are identified 50 years later after someone uploaded their DNA into genealogy site

The remains of a Portland, Oregon, teenager who vanished in the late 1960s have been identified through advanced DNA testing more than 50 years after she went missing, authorities said

1 day ago

cuffs hang on a pipe against a wall...

Mary Culbertson

Man accused of manslaughter after allegedly selling fentanyl that led to overdose

One man was arrested and accused of manslaughter after authorities believe he sold fentanyl to a victim who died of overdose.

2 days ago

silver cuffs on a black background...

Alexander Campbell

Cedar City math tutor accused of recording a student in the restroom

A math tutor in Cedar City was arrested after admitting to recording a student in his restroom on Thursday.

3 days ago

Pair of handcuffs on a black bacthroom...

Alexander Campbell

Salt Lake City man charged with credit union robbery

A grand jury has voted to charge a local man with the robbery of a Cyprus Credit union.

3 days ago

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 photo, containers holding frozen embryos and sperm are stored ...

Associated Press

Facing backlash over IVF ruling, Alabama lawmakers look for a fix

Lawmakers began scrambling for ways to protect Alabama in vitro fertilization services after multiple providers paused services in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos could be considered children under a state law.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

EXCLUSIVE: Man takes woman hostage on flight to SLC, Good Samaritan steps in