United Passenger Bites His Seatmate’s Ear Off After Using The Lavatory

United Airlines flight UA728 from Newark to Miami diverted to Charleston, South Carolina Wednesday morning after a passenger bit his seatmate’s ear off, according to a police report of the incident.

Passenger John Yurkovich, a 45 year old man from New Jersey, reportedly got up from his seat to use the lavatory. And when he returned he “seemed very agitated” according to his seat opponent and soon-to-be victim.

Yurkovich asked a flight attendant for water and then got up to retrieve pills from a bag in the overhead bin. He sat back down and began to “scream and thrash around.” His seatmate tried to protect himself from the man, but Yurkovich then punched him, breaking his glasses. Yurkovich is then accused of going for the man’s ear with his mouth, causing deep cuts that the police described as biting it off, presumably taking a chunk of the ear.

Other passengers descended on the man, and several received injuries. One was punched in the head, and another suffered a broken nose. They subdued him, though, and secured him with zip ties and a belt and placed his shirt over his head. A physician on board “administered a shot of Benadryl to the man’s buttocks to help sedate him.”

The pilot diverted the aircraft, which was met by police, and the flight eventually continued to Miami. Bond for Yurkovich was set at $50,000. The 15 year old ex-Continental Boeing 737-800 arrived about two and a half hours late.

This case is simultaneously what’s wrong with aviation, with humanity – and with the criminal justice system. This last because the man isn’t charged with biting hit seatmate’s ear. He’s charged with “a single count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine” over 1.5 grams of a “white crystal substance” in his pocket. That’s about 1/18th of an ounce and enough to assume he isn’t just holding it for personal use but he’s a dealer. Intent to distribute? Additional charges may follow.

(HT: Live and Let’s Fly)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Welcome aboard Mr. Van Gogh. Ears your seat. Mr. Bogart will be your seatmate.

    Bogart smiles: “Ears looking at you kid.”

  2. Sounds like this man deserves to spend a few years in prison. He can try biting the steel bars when he gets agitated.

  3. He should be charged with “mayhem” for biting off the ear, but it is easier to prove the meth charge and the sentences for narcotrafficking are stiff.

    This should be filed under “seatmate from hell” and I hope UA rewards the good samaritans who subdued this animal.

  4. There might be both jurisdiction issues (which court could really hear the case? It might actually depend on what state they were flying over at the time) and insanity-as-a-defense concerns about the ear-biting charge. But they did say that more charges were likely forthcoming.

  5. So now we have the not-so-friendly-skies version of Mike Tyson attacking Evander Holyfield instead of the more typical version of a passenger chewing off another passenger’s ear by 22talking too much.

    Perhaps Gary is familiar when Cafe Milano in DC served a menu item in honor of Evander Holyfield’s ear that was chewed off by Tyson.

  6. My guess was bath salts! There have got to be other charges, such as battery and some kind of rape for sharing bodily fluid involuntarily. ewwwwwww Glad I have a fleece hat with ear covers!

  7. Sorry, Mr. Leff, I don’t see how a GIPHY clip is relevant to this story. You should’ve posted a clip of the perpetrator just like you do for certain other onboard incidents. Would’ve been just as easy to find an online source from a broadcast outlet as it would finding a random Instagram post.

    EDITED – partially fixed for ya’!



  8. Gary, why are many of the articles at the end of the comments several years old. One comment from 2020 caused me to cancel a cruise.

  9. How do we get from “…a cut on his ear…” to “Passenger Bites His Seatmate’s Ear Off…” ?
    Must not have been that serious since “Everyone involved declined hospital treatment, and a doctor onboard said their injuries weren’t severe”.

    In any case, $50K bail for the drug charge is a joke. No charges for breaking all hell loose during the flight and forcing an unscheduled landing -or- physically assaulting fellow travelers.

  10. An ear biting meth dealer sounds like he could have fit in well with the bath salt using, face eating crowd in Miami…

  11. How do you even file a civil case in court? Can he plead insanity and get off the hook?

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