After United 93, air travelers react to threats
DETROIT (AP) – They heard a pop that sounded like fireworks. They saw a glow of flame followed by a rush of smoke. And that was enough for passengers on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to pounce.
From several seats away, Dutch tourist Jasper Schuringa says he jumped to extinguish a fire ignited by a quiet man who just moments before allegedly told passengers his stomach was upset and pulled a blanket over himself. Schuringa said his first thought wasn’t to signal a flight attendant or wait for an air marshal to break cover, but rather, “He’s trying to blow up the plane.”
“I basically reacted directly,” Schuringa said Saturday in an interview with CNN. “I didn’t think. I just jumped. I just went over there and tried to save the plane.”
Aviation safety experts once would have called Schuringa’s actions a mistake and cautioned passengers against fighting back during hijackings and other crises in the air. That was before the Sept. 11 attacks and the actions of passengers on United Flight 93, who learned while aloft about the hijacked jets that slammed earlier that day into New York’s World Trade Center.
They staged a cabin revolt against the al-Qaida terrorists who had taken control of their flight and died when their plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa. But they succeeded in keeping the jet from destroying another building that day, and their story became legend.
“I don’t think people are going to sit back and let somebody kill them in the process of fulfilling their extremist agenda or whatever it happens to be,” said Dave Heffernan, who helps oversee self-defense training for commercial flight crews at Valenica Community College in Orlando, Fla. “People have talked about it. They’ve thought about it. They have a plan of action.”
On Saturday, a day after the failed attack on Northwest 253, federal prosecutors charged Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a native of Nigeria, with trying to destroy the airliner with a device containing a high explosive attached to his body. They alleged that Abdulmutallab set off the device – sparking a fire instead of an explosion – as the flight from Amsterdam descended toward Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Schuringa, of Amsterdam, told CNN that he didn’t think about his own safety when he extinguished the fire with his hands. He and other passengers said that several people on board, including members of the flight crew, then joined him in taking Abdulmutallab to first class to strip off his clothes and search for any more explosives.
WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. government officials tell The Associated Press that the Nigerian man charged with trying to destroy a jetliner came to the attention of U.S. intelligence in November when his father went to the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, to express his concerns about his son.
A congressional official said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, popped up in U.S. intelligence reports about four weeks ago as having a connection to both al-Qaida and Yemen.
Another government official said Abdulmutallab’s father went to the embassy in Abuja with his concerns, but did not have any specific information that would put him on the “no-fly list” or on the list for additional security checks at the airport.
Neither was the information sufficient to revoke his visa to visit the United States.
His visa had been granted June 2008 and was valid through June 2010.