DETROIT — Passengers on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 knew something was very wrong when they saw flight attendants running for fire extinguishers.
Then they smelled the smoke. Passengers described a chaotic scene as people on the Christmas Day flight lunged to subdue the suspect, Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, as flames and smoke poured from beneath his seat.
Jasper Schuringa, a resident of Amsterdam, said he quickly leaped over several seats and on top of Abdulmutallab to detain him and extinguish the flames.
In an interview on CNN, Schuringa displayed bandages on his right hand as he described the scene inside plane: screaming passengers, pillows on fire and a quick-thinking crew. "When I saw the suspect, that he was getting on fire, I freaked, of course, and without any hesitation I just jumped over all the seats," Schuringa said. "And I jumped to the suspect. I was thinking like, he's trying to blow up the plane. I was trying to search his body for any explosives. I took some kind of object that was already melting and smoking out of him."
Sources said Abdulmutallab appears to have used a syringe to mix a chemical with some powder on his leg to start a fire. Schuringa said he screamed for water as he took a burning, melting object that Abdulmutallab had hidden in his pants. He said something leaking from his pants apparently ignited two pillows on the floor.
Charles Keepman was sitting farther back in the plane when he heard the popping sound and saw the flight attendants running down the aisles. "We heard a pop, then the smell and the reality kicked in for all of us. The reality was the fear in the flight attendants' eyes," said Keepman, a businessman returning to Wisconsin.
As they descended toward landing, passengers said the concern about a potential fire quickly shifted to the issue of security as passengers near the suspect tried to subdue him.
Passenger Veena Saigal said a "strong guy" wrapped an arm around the suspect's neck, she said, and began pushing him up the aisle toward an empty seat at the front of the plane, which pilots were preparing to land at Detroit's principal airport.
"He was holding him from the back, with a strong grip," said Saigal. "He's kind of a hero, I think. When he went back to his seat, we all clapped."