Great Britain

Instagrammer thrown off plane after ‘yelling he had coronavirus’ in ‘prank to go viral’ that forced flight to turn back

THIS is the moment an Instagrammer was escorted off a plane because he “joked” about having coronavirus in a bid to go viral.

Potok Philippe, 28 from Ontario, Canada, caused the flight from Toronto to Jamaica to turn back mid-flight because of the sick stunt.

He was arrested and charged with mischief yesterday after his WestJet flight and a second plane were forced to cancel their journeys because of his “prank”.

Coronavirus has killed over 400 people since the outbreak started in December while more than 20,000 globally have been infected.

The social media star admitted he announced to the 243 others on board that he had the deadly bug while filming himself in a bid to get views online, saying “it was simply a joke.”

He told City News: “It would be something else if I said hey guys I have a bomb strapped to me, I have a weapon on me, people blew it out of proportion. To me it was simply a joke.

“About mid-way through the flight I stood up, pulled my video camera out – I was going to post it to Instagram, send it to 6ixbuzz so it goes viral.”

'SELFISH' STUNT

The 28-year-old, whose real name is James Potok, explained “word-for-word” what he told the other passengers.

He said: “Can I get everybody’s attention please. I just came back from Hunan province, the capital of the coronavirus. I’m not feeling too well. Thank you.”

The epicentre of the virus is actually in Wuhan and not Hunan, which is over five hours drive south of ground zero.

Potok, who is a musician with over 30,000 followers on Instagram, was filmed being escorted from the plane wearing gloves and a mask.

It has been reported that airline staff demanded he wear the protective clothing after his stunt.

The social media star insisted he did not understand the extent of the outbreak which has dominated the news for the past few weeks.

He said: 'I'm very, very sorry for my ignorance and not understanding that its an epidemic, that people hear the word and its become synonymous with threats.

“I thought it would spark a reaction. I did not think what I was doing would be considered illegal [or] warrant that type of response. In retrospect it probably wasn’t the best thing to do.”

Passenger Julie-Anne Broderick told of her disgust at having the start of her holiday ruined by the “selfish” prankster.

She said: “I guess this guy thought it was a funny joke but it's just really weird.

“We were all very frustrated, to just displace 240 people, it's just so selfish. We've lost a day of our vacation.”

Medical staff checked Potok over at Toronto’s Pearson Airport and confirmed he had no sign of the virus, authorities said.

He will appear in Ontario Court of Justice on March 9.

There have been four confirmed cases of coronavirus in Canada as well as others in the United States and Mexico.

Constable Bancroft Wright told CBC: “That announcement was shared by the flight crew to the captain and a decision was made for the plane to return back to Pearson [International Airport].”

Airline WestJet said in a statement said: “Out of an abundance of caution, our crew followed all protocols for infectious disease on board, including sequestering an individual who made an unfounded claim regarding coronavirus.

“Due to the involvement of law enforcement, as well as the privacy of our guests, we are not able to provide additional information about the incident at this time.”