Page last updated at 22:00 GMT, Saturday, 26 December 2009

'Smoke and screams' on board plane

Passengers who were on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 have been describing the moment when a man apparently tried to carry out a mid-air bomb attack.

Richelle Keepman, passenger on Northwest Airlines Flight 253
Passenger Richelle Keepman described the incident as "terrifying"

"It was terrifying," Richelle Keepman told local media afterwards, clearly shaken.

"I thought... I think we all thought that we weren't going to land, we weren't going to make it."

The incident happened as the plane was approaching Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Friday afternoon after travelling from Amsterdam.

Ms Keepman described the moment it became clear something was wrong.

"We were in the back of the plane and all of a sudden heard some screams and some flight attendants ran up and down the aisles," she said.

"I think we knew at the point when we saw the fear in the flight attendants' eyes and they grabbed the fire extinguishers."

Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft and placing a destructive device on board.

Reports say he has claimed to have been acting on behalf of al-Qaeda.

Another unidentified female passenger described the man's behaviour during the incident.

"He stood up. He was belligerent. He was yelling, swearing," she said.

"He was screaming about Afghanistan. He was fighting with the wonderful stewards that we had."

Elias Fawaz, passenger on Northwest Airlines Flight 253
Elias Fawaz said the initial noise was "like a balloon being popped"

Elias Fawaz told local television station WDIV there was "a lot of panic" for a few minutes once the reality of what might be happening dawned on the passengers.

"What we heard in the beginning was a bang, [it] sounded like a balloon being popped, and then a minute later there was a lady shouting back and she was saying things like, 'What are you doing? What are you doing?'

"Then we looked back and there was a struggle, I think about five rows back on the left of where we were sitting and we saw fumes and fire coming out."

'Screams and cries'

It appears that fellow passengers and air stewards alike tried to tackle the suspect, but several people described one young man - Dutch citizen Jasper Schuringa - who rushed across from the opposite side of the aircraft to help.

"One guy put a lock on his head and dragged him to the front, [with] his pants down," Zina Saiga was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

"He took care of that suspect. He handled him pretty good," Syed Jafry, who was sitting three rows behind the man, told CNN.

Mr Jafry described screams and cries for water and blankets as flames and smoke became visible over the top of the seats.

The man, it appears, was eventually dragged to the front of the plane.

"I don't recall that he was struggling," Mr Jafry said. "He appeared to be stunned... he was kind of more surprised.

Melinda Dennis, passenger from Northwest Airlines Flight 253
Melinda Dennis said the man appeared to have burned his own leg

"I think he was trying to do something that didn't work."

And it appears he hurt himself in the process.

Melinda Dennis told US media afterwards: "The only thing that I can tell for sure is that he was severely burnt. His entire leg was burnt.

"They required a fire extinguisher as well as water to put it out. You could smell the smoke when we landed.

"Whatever caused it was not good."

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'Bomb attack bid' on US airliner
26 Dec 09 |  Americas

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