A passenger says a senator’s wife charged with causing a disturbance on a flight was upset her husband was experiencing tightness in his chest, but she wasn’t threatening.
Scott Wright, a former ambulance attendant, said he volunteered last Thursday when the crew on the Ottawa to Saskatoon flight asked for anyone with medical experience to help Sen. Rod Zimmer, who wasn’t feeling well.
The couple were seated towards the rear of the aircraft, Mr. Wright said, and he said Mr. Zimmer’s wife, Maygan Sensenberger was emotionally distraught by her husband’s condition.
Mr. Wright said Mr. Zimmer, 69, started feeling better after he was given some oxygen, but Ms. Sensenberger, 23, was still upset and the couple were fighting with each other over Mr. Zimmer’s condition.
“I never at any time felt threatened,” Mr. Wright said Monday. “And all of the frustration she expressed while I was there was targeted around the medical condition and the health of her husband.”
Ms. Sensenberger was charged with endangering the safety of the aircraft and causing a disturbance.
On Monday, a Saskatoon provincial court judge released her from custody on the condition that she have no contact with her husband.
Mr. Zimmer sat in the front row of the courtroom during the hearing. He left through a back door, as his wife walked out the front and rushed by reporters into a waiting black car.
Mr. Wright said he and several other passengers were doing their best to help on the plane. He said the crew asked him if he believed they needed to land early, but when Mr. Zimmer began to feel better, the decision was made to continue on to Saskatoon.
“She saw us doing the primary work so she was continuing to speak out. She was continuing to say, ‘What’s happening? Is he OK? Tell me he’s going to be OK. Why aren’t you doing more? Why aren’t you doing something?“’ Mr. Wright said.
“She did pause to yell at one or two of the other passengers who were peering over or trying to see what was going on,” he continued. “There was the odd profanity offered.”
No one was injured in the incident and police say the safety of the aircraft was not compromised.
Mr. Wright said it sounded like Mr. Zimmer was struggling a little bit to breathe, although he said Mr. Zimmer informed him it may have been caused by a previous medical condition. He also referred to a previous incident that happened several days prior, Mr. Wright said.
Air Canada moved him to the door so it would be easier for him to leave the plane, Mr. Wright noted.
Officers and ambulance staff met the plane when it landed. Mr. Wright said Mr. Zimmer walked off the aircraft himself.
Court records show the disturbance happened on Air Canada Flight 8597, which originated in Halifax, stopped in Ottawa and then went on to Saskatoon.
A police spokeswoman said last Friday that according to witnesses, Ms. Sensenberger created a large disturbance and it only got worse as the plane neared Saskatoon.
Court records show police believe she uttered threats against her husband and threatened to take down the plane.
Mr. Wright said the only physical conflict that he saw was between the senator and his wife was when he was trying to calm her down, although he said he didn’t see anything that may have transpired before he was asked to help out.
“The only grabbing and pushing I saw was between her and him as he was trying to calm her and nudge the hand over and settle her down. I saw none with other passengers. I didn’t see any with passengers or airline personnel,” Mr. Wright said.
“There did, as every heated discussion gets to in my experience between a husband and wife, there was the heated conversation around, ‘I’m done with this,’ or ‘You’re not listening to me.’ But no, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ no threats, nothing like that.”
Mr. Wright said the flight attendants did their best to calm the situation.
He said there were no doctors on board — at least none that identified themselves.
Mr. Zimmer, who is a Liberal and represents Manitoba in the senate, was appointed to the Canadian upper chamber in 2005 by then-prime minister Paul Martin.
A Facebook page that was started in 2010 called, “Rod Zimmer & Maygan Sensenberger’s Wedding Page,” says they were married on Aug. 27, 2011.
That would make Monday their first wedding anniversary.
As part of her release conditions, Ms. Sensenberger was also banned from drinking alcohol and being in licensed establishments.
She is to appear again Tuesday in a specific courtroom set aside to hear domestic violence cases.
The court offers an option for those who plead guilty and are willing to take responsibility for their actions. The court’s website says the accused can receive a reduced sentence after completing counselling or attending substance abuse programs.
Mr. Wright said he believed that Ms. Sensenberger was so emotionally distraught for her husband that she wasn’t thinking rationally or listening to what he, her husband, or others on the aircraft were telling her.
“As he was telling us that he was feeling OK, she was concerned that he wasn’t in a well enough state of mind to be saying that. She was concerned that the medical condition might be affecting what his response was to us,” Mr. Wright said.
“In my mind, this was someone who was critically concerned about the welfare of her husband and the well-being of his medical condition.
“I’m a little surprised to see, frankly, the profile this has gotten, and I think it’s been blown significantly out of proportion. I’ve seen a number of reports that have touched on things like age and status that have absolutely nothing to do with what’s happened here.”