Fidel Castro Ordered a Helicopter Hijacking In California, Crazed Hijacker Claims

Damn you, Fidel. Don't you have enough to occupy your attention with a cholera outbreak spreading across Cuba, and your all-star baseball team trying to topple the Yanquis in Havana? Can't you stop sending secret messages to our crazy people in California demanding that they hijack helicopters for your nefarious purposes?

That's exactly what happened in Yuba, California (the "Prune Capital of the World") last week.

On Thursday, helicopter pilot Erik Vandagriff was preparing for takeoff at the Yuba County airport when 20-year-old Zachary Hinders opened the door and jumped in.

"The initial thought was maybe there's an emergency or there's something wrong with the aircraft," Vandagriff tells Sacramento's CBS13.

But no -- Hinders was set to hijack the helicopter, telling Vandagriff only that "he wanted to go somewhere."

Sadly, the would-be terrorist forgot to bring any kind of weapon, so Vandagriff just opened the door and told him to beat it.

"I told him, 'We're not taking you anywhere. You need to get away from us,'" the pilot tells CBS13.

Hinders eventually listened, jumping back out, running across the runway, and hopping a barbed-wire fence. When police caught up with him on Saturday and arrested him, Hinders had a simple explanation.

Fidel Castro told him to take the helicopter, he said.

Out in California, the operating theory is that this Hinders kid has a bolt or two loose.

But if you've been reading any of Fidel's newspaper columns lately, ordering a crazed 20-year-old in rural Cali to take a helicopter doesn't actually seem all that farfetched.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >