Friday, August 13, 2010

Some passengers dispute jetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater's claim that he was provoked

He's ready for takeoff again.

Aside from the fact that he has "man-boobs" Flight attendant Steven Slater - suspended after he fled a jet in a snit through an emergency chute - wants his wings back, his lawyer said Thursday.

"Steven's hope is to return to aviation," lawyer Howard Turman said outside Slater's home in Belle Harbor, Queens. "That is his love."

Slater, 38, has been hailed as a working man's hero for telling off a passenger over the intercom, grabbing beer and jumping out a slide at Kennedy Airport on Monday.

But some passengers on jetBlue Flight 1052 dispute the steaming steward's claim that he was provoked by a woman who hit him with a carry-on bag or overhead door and cursed him out.

Port Authority cops interviewed about 40 people on the Pittsburgh-to-New York flight and haven't found anyone who backs up Slater's story.

College student Hilary Baribeau, 20, came home to Maine after a three-day hiking trip to find cops wanted to grill her.

"We heard your name and wanted to check in with you and see what you had to say about the flight," she said they told her.

"Pretty much what I remember happening is I got on a plane and I got off a plane," the Carnegie Melon University senior said. "I don't remember anyone getting into any fights, any confrontations."

Slater's lawyer gave a vague description of the supposed clash during early boarding in Pittsburgh that left Slater with a gash on his head.

"There was a great deal of shoving. Steven came over to assist and was hit in the head by either a bag or a bin," Turman said.

An internal jetBlue memo cast some doubt on Slater's claim.

"There's much more to this story that we don't know, including: Was there an altercation on the flight that precipitated or motivated Mr. Slater's action?" jetBlue COO Rob Maruster wrote, according to The Wall Street Journal.

After he slid out of the plane, Slater went home, where cops found him drunk and in bed with his boyfriend - his eyes bloodshot and reeking of booze, sources said.

When cops asked him if he had been drinking, Slater said, "Yes, while waiting for you to show up," sources said.

Slater, who was suspended by jetBlue, was charged with trespassing, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

His lawyer said he's optimistic his mercurial client will avoid a stiff penalty.

"We had preliminary discussions with the district attorney's office and believe there will be a favorable outcome for my client," Turman said.

He said a company offered to hire Slater to endorse a nonalcoholic "relaxation drink," but he turned it down because the incident "is not a joke" and his real love is aviation.

If Slater does return to the skies, there's at least one passenger from Flight 1052 who will be rooting for him.

Keleigh Nealon, 25 said she's flown with Slater several times before, and his bubbly personality always brightened her day.

"I just feel so bad for him," said Nealon. "I've been on flights with him and he's the one who is always so nice. He makes your flight enjoyable."

Nealon didn't see a confrontation. But when she was stepping off the plane, she heard an agitated Slater venting to a colleague about how "common courtesy has gone out the door."

"It was so out of character," Nealon added. "You knew something was wrong. Something bad had happened."

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