By Alana Gomez, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Phil Tighe of Plympton was sitting in the back of Delta Flight 1102 from Orlando to Boston Tuesday night when flight attendants had an unexpected request.

“They said ‘look we have a problem, we have a problem with a passenger. We need you to sit next to him,’” said Tighe.

Tighe believes they might have picked him out because he’s “a beefy guy.”

WBZ-TV’s Alana Gomez reports

Flight attendants ultimately chose Tighe and an off-duty Weymouth police officer to sit next to Robert Hersey. Hersey allegedly tried to open the emergency exit door mid-flight.

“For the next two hours we engaged him in conversation and he knew he’d messed up and he was a little bit chagrined,” said Tighe.

“He didn’t realize the nature of the seriousness of what he did.”

Tighe talks to WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Rod Fritz

Tighe said Hersey’s side of the story was watered-down.

“His version was ‘I just touched something on the side and this thing came out of the wall’,” said Tighe.

“He was kinda general about that. He was groggy. He said ‘I just touched something and something else happened, I didn’t realize something like that would occur.’”

Tighe said Hersey told them he’d been drinking in the afternoon at the bar because the flight was delayed. Tighe said by the time Hersey was seated next to him it seemed like he had sobered up quite a bit.

Tighe said they talked about ordinary things like sports for the rest of the flight, but Hersey would bring up how bad he felt throughout the conversation.

When state troopers boarded the flight, Tighe said that’s when Hersey fell silent.

“He didn’t say anything, he saw ‘em come on, he just said ‘uh oh’ and that was the end of that, he put his head down,” said Tighe.

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