Hay River man sentenced for assaulting flight attendant

First Air ATR 42-500
A First Air ATR 42-500. First Air photo
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A Hay River man is facing jail time for assaulting a flight attendant during a Yellowknife to Hay River flight in January.

William Max Mahoney, 61, was on a First Air flight back from supporting family attending hearings of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Yellowknife January 26th.

According to Territorial Court judge B.E. Schmaltz, Mahoney and the person he was traveling with were being unruly inflight. They were consuming alcohol from a smoothie bottle and the flight attendant, working on her own, had to tell Mahoney to put and keep his seatbelt on.

It wasn’t until the plane had landed and was taxiing that Mahoney stood up. This prompted the flight attendant to leave her seat and move towards Mahoney. He stumbled and fell, and this point the flight attendant picked up an alcohol bottle belonging to Mahoney.

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Then, in the words of the flight attendant, ‘he came at me.’ Mahoney wrapped his arms around the flight attendant from behind, both of them stumbled into the bulkhead. She was able to free herself and RCMP were called.

Schmaltz says the responsibilities of a flight attendant go further than serving snacks and drinks. They are responsible for passenger safety. A plane is very different from a bare or another public places, Schmaltz adds.

“No one can leave the situation on a plane.”

Drawing from her victim impact statement, Schmaltz says the assault has had a strong emotional effect on the flight attendant. She was diagnosed with PTSD and prescribed medication, took eight weeks off from work and was recommended counselling.

Schmaltz referred to Mahoney’s lengthy criminal record, ‘mostly alcohol-related’, as well as his alcohol addiction during sentencing.

Mahoney earlier pled not guilty to the charges, then changed his plea. He was found guilty after a trial in Hay River. He apologized to the passengers, the flight attendant and the court on Thursday.

William Max Mahoney was sentenced to six months in jail for assault, mischief and unruly or dangerous behaviour under the Aeronautics Act, as well as failing to appear in court and breaching two other court orders. He has just under four months left to serve.

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