EXCLUSIVE: Kona realtor could face federal charge over vaping dispute on flight from Vegas
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Kona realtor will likely face federal charges after a confrontation with a flight attendant Thursday after witnesses said she repeatedly used an e-cigarette on a flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu and became belligerent.
"So I'm apologizing that it did happen, but it did not need to get carried to the level that it did. I think he had a bad day and was taking it out on me with a bad attitude," said Kristin Sharp, 34, of Kona. She was talking about her dispute with a flight attendant on an Allegiant Air flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu Thursday afternoon that resulted in her being detained and questioned by the FBI for allegedly interfering with a flight attendant.
Witnesses told authorities Sharp used an e-cigarette as she entered the aircraft on the jetway in Las Vegas, and a flight attendant told her to put it out, which she did.
But witnesses said she started vaping again in her first-row seat after the plane took off and later went into the lavatory to smoke her e-cigarette, sources said. She denies those charges.
"After he asked me to stop vaping I did stop vaping and I put my vaper away in my purse," Sharp told Hawaii News Now.
Witnesses described Sharp as "drunk and belligerent" on the flight, a characterization she also denied.
"I was just not happy with being treated poorly," Sharp said.
Witnesses told authorities she exposed her breasts and swore at the flight attendant and threw a crumpled-up half-full soda can at him.
"That is not true. I didn't mean to throw it at him. I was trying to hit the trash can that was next to him," Sharp told Hawaii News Now.
Sources said the crew of Allegiant Air flight 1051 moved Sharp and her boyfriend to other seats away from the first row right outside the cockpit and she passed out and slept for the remainder of the flight.
"It was an unfortunate incident to have with the flight attendant," Sharp said. "However, I do feel that he was very rude to me and there was definitely a lack of manners and etiquette."
In a statement, Allegiant Air said it could not comment on the incident because it is part of an ongoing investigation.
But the airline did release a statement that said, "FAA regulations prohibit the use of e-cigarettes while on board an aircraft, and also require that all passengers comply with crew member instructions to ensure the safety of all on board."
FBI spokesman Tom Simon said, "The FBI responded to the incident and the suspect was released pending further investigation."
Sharp's boyfriend, Bryant Clark of Kona, said he thought the whole incident was blown out of proportion.
"She's not a criminal by any means," Clark said. "She's a sweetheart, she's a good person. She was tired. She was a little bit grumpy. I think that the flight attendant wasn't doing things to de-escalate the situation."
Sources said the FBI is interviewing flight crew members and passengers and federal authorities could bring a criminal charge early next week.
The penalty for interfering with or assaulting a flight attendant could be both a fine and prison time of up to 20 years.
Pilots and other flight crew personnel said some passengers routinely vape on planes even though it's prohibited by the FAA. They try to hide by smoking their e-cigarettes into blankets, pillows or in the airplane restrooms, crew members said.
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