MIAMI — A Haitian man hijacked an American missionary flight from an airport in Haiti to Miami on Thursday, firing a shot in the cabin before the plane took off. But minutes after it landed, he emerged with his hands behind his head and surrendered.
None of the other 12 people aboard, all believed to be Americans, were injured, FBI spokesman Paul Miller said. Among them was a woman the hijacker took hostage before boarding the plane.
Authorities said the hijacker, identified as Woody Marc Edouard, surrendered his handgun to the crew during the flight, more than two hours after he seized the plane and two hours before it landed in Miami.
Edouard, 24, faces a federal air piracy charge, which carries a minimum penalty of 20 years, Miller said. He is scheduled to appear today before a U.S. magistrate.
A spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti said the hijacker was a Haitian soldier. But Miller said the man may not be a soldier and has not requested asylum.
Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta, said his only known demand was to be taken to Miami.
The hijacker followed a woman on board while the plane was on the runway in Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti, said FBI supervisor Roy Tubergen. The woman was helping with flight arrangements but was not a passenger.
"It seems that he just followed behind her and took her onto the plane," he said. "He fired a shot. It went through her skirt and into the floor of the plane. I don't know if he did it on purpose."
The plane, a twin-prop DC-3 more than 30 years old, refueled without incident in Providenciales Island in the Turks and Caicos, Bergen said.
"The pilot had a gun to his head, particularly in the Caicos. It was really tense for him there," said FBI special agent John Pavlansky.
The hijacker calmed down when told he was being taken to Miami and gave up his gun after a "religious conversation" with one of the missionaries, passenger Hawke Morgan told WSVN-TV.
"One of the missionaries talked to him, kind of preached to him for quite a while. He spoke Creole fluently and eventually convinced him to give up the gun," Morgan said.
The gun was handed to the pilot, who removed the bullets.
Shortly after the plane landed at Miami International Airport, the man walked out the door with his hands behind his head.