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Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline's facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

An aspiring musician who allegedly stood up from his seat on a Jamaica-bound flight from Toronto and claimed he had contracted coronavirus says that he did it in hopes of making a viral video.

WestJet flight 2702 was diverted back to Toronto on Monday morning nearly two hours into the flight. The 243 passengers had to get off the plane where they started their journey hours after they boarded the aircraft.

In a statement, a spokesperson for WestJet, Morgan Bell, said law enforcement and medical officials were requested to meet the flight when it arrived back in Toronto.

“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,” Bell wrote.

“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.”

When the plane arrived back at Pearson Airport, the man was assessed by medical officials and was deemed to be symptom-free.

WestJet said all of the affected travellers were moved to an extra flight scheduled to depart from Toronto to Montego Bay on Tuesday at 6:45 a.m.

Man says claim was 'simply to make a joke'

Speaking to Newstalk1010 Tuesday evening, James Potok said that he decided to stand up and make the announcement in an attempt to film a viral video.

“It was simply to make a joke and to get what I thought was a viral video,” he said.

“I had my video camera on my phone and I asked for everyone’s attention and I just stated ‘I just recently came back from Wuhan province.’ I believe I might have said I’m not feeling to well. But, in retrospect that wasn’t the smartest thing to do, talk about a worldwide epidemic, especially evoke fear in people. That was never my intent.”

Potok said that at no point did he claim he had contracted or had been diagnosed with 2019-nCoV.

He told Newstalk 1010 that he regrets the fact that the plane was rerouted back to Toronto and said he feels terrible for the people who were inconvenienced.

Charges laid in connection with incident

Peel Regional Police confirmed the 28-year-old man from Thornhill, Ont. was arrested in connection with the incident. James Potok has been charged with one count of mischief and one count of breach of recognizance.


Source: Facebook / Potok Philippe

They said they have had limited contact with Potok since the incident because police took his phone away.

Meanwhile on Twitter, Potok has been retweeting news stories about the incident. On Facebook, a post under his name reads “going viral goes BAD!” and links to a story about the flight.

Potok is scheduled to appear inside a Brampton courthouse on March 9.