DETROIT, Michigan – "I just jumped, I didn't think," said Dutchman Jasper Schuringa, who has emerged as a Christmas Day hero for his impulsive smackdown of a terror suspect who tried to blow up a US-bound airliner.
Witnesses and authorities have praised passengers and crew for banding together to stop the suspect, identified by US authorities as Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23.
The suspect failed to fully detonate an incendiary device containing "a high explosive" that he managed to sneak past airport security and started to ignite as the jet approached Detroit.
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But if Schuringa's interview with CNN is any indication, he's the one who came to the rescue of the plane's 277 other passengers and 11 crew.
"I basically reacted directly," a relaxed-looking Schuringa, clad in a gray T-shirt and with one of his hands and wrists bandaged, told the news network Saturday.
"When I saw the suspect he was getting on fire and I freaked of course, and without any hesitation jumped over the seats and jumped to the suspect because I was thinking, like, he's trying to blow up the plane."
Schuringa was seated on the right of the Northwest Airlines Airbus 330, a few rows behind Abdulmutallab who was in a window seat on the left. He said he "reacted on a bang," and when smoke and flames started billowing from the suspect's lap he clamored over fellow passengers and tackled him.
"When you hear a pop on a plane, you're awake, trust me. So I just jumped, I didn't think, and I just went, went over there and tried to save the plane, I guess."
As terrified passengers screamed and the cabin filled with smoke, the level-headed Schuringa and alert crew dragged the suspect to the front and contained him, while others put out the mini-blaze with a fire extinguisher.
"We took him to first class and there we stripped him and contained him with handcuffs and made sure he had no more weapons or bombs on him."
The Dutchman, who US media reported was a video director and producer, said that "absolutely nothing" about Abdulmutallab suggested he would try anything sinister.
"He looked like a normal guy," he said. "It was just hard to believe that he was actually going to, trying to blow up this plane."
Schuringa's effort is the latest act of mid-air bravery in the United States, some of which has reached iconic status.
For many the epitome of aviation heroism is represented by Chesley Sullenberger, the unflappable captain who landed his crippled US Airways jet in the Hudson River last January, saving everyone aboard.
For others it is the efforts of those aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked on September 11, 2001.
Passengers on that flight, having learned of earlier attacks that fateful day on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, mounted an assault to try and overpower the hijackers. The jet plowed into a Pennsylvania field, killing all aboard, and passengers were lauded for stopping what experts conclude was a terrorist attack in the making.
Senior US politicians, while not mentioning Schuringa by name, hailed the passengers and crew on the Christmas Day flight who apprehended the would-be Detroit airline bomber.
"We are forever indebted to the heroic passengers and flight attendants who sought to subdue the suspect," said Bennie Thompson, chairman of the homeland security committee in the House of Representatives.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement that she was "grateful to the passengers and crew aboard Northwest Flight 253 who reacted quickly and heroically to an incident that could have had tragic results."
Several witnesses said a passenger tackled Abdulmutallab and helped drag him to the front of the plane.
Schuringa said he burned his hands as he struggled to get the burning material out from between Abdulmutallab's legs.
"I pulled the object from him and tried to extinguish the fire with my hands and threw it away," said Schuringa, described by the New York Daily News as a Dutch video producer and director from Amsterdam.
"I had to... damp the fire, because it was growing, and fire on a plane is not good."
© AFP 2013