Passengers Took Security Into Their Own Hands

The New York Times has a story on the scene aboard Northwest flight 253, as passengers acted quickly to avert disaster.

During 19 hours of travel, aboard two flights across three continents, law enforcement officials said, Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab bided his time. Then, just as Northwest Flight 253 finally began its final approach to Detroit around noon on Friday, he tried to ignite the incendiary powder mixture he had taped to his leg, they said.

There were popping sounds, smoke and a commotion as passengers cried out in alarm and tried to see what was happening.

And then history repeated itself. Just as occurred before Christmas in 2001 when Richard C. Reid tried to ignite the plastic explosives hidden in his shoe on a trans-Atlantic flight, fellow passengers jumped on Mr. Abdulmutallab, restraining the 23-year-old Nigerian. Crew members poured bottled water on the flames, snuffing out the sparks of what could have been a planewide conflagration. …

Mr. Abdulmutallab, who was sitting on the left side of the aircraft, may not have been trying to blow up the plane, but possibly intended to cause a fire to distract the cabin crew, cause passengers to panic and create a stampede for the exits as the plane was landing, a senior airline industry official who had been briefed on the situation said Saturday.

One passenger who was sitting in the same row as Mr. Abdulmutallab, but on the right side of the plane, apparently hurled himself across a middle row of four seats to tackle him. The passenger who hurtled across the aisle was Jasper Schuringa, a filmmaker from Amsterdam, a friend of Mr. Schuringa said Saturday. A senior airline executive said that flight attendants also jumped in.

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Last updated: 2021-06-05 2:51 pm PDT
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