Local News

Raleigh man heard 'pop,' saw fire during airliner attack

Posted December 29, 2009

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— A Raleigh man was sitting one row away from the young Nigerian man who is charged with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane near Detroit on Christmas Day.

Kapil Kushwaha, 42, said Tuesday that he heard a sound like a “balloon pop.” About 30 seconds later, he said, he saw smoke and flames 2 to 3 feet high coming from the seat of fellow passenger Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, of Nigeria.

“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, that's a crazy man. Put out the fire. We don't know anything. We're going to die now,’” Kushwaha recalled.

Abdulmutallab was hospitalized with burns from the attack and was read an indictment filed in federal court in Detroit charging him with attempting to destroy or wreck an aircraft and placing a destructive device in a plane.

When asked what punishment Abdulmutallab should get if found guilty, Kushwaha said “very, very bad punishment.”

Kushwaha was flying alone on a trip back from India – a trip he said he has made many times. He had a connection from Amsterdam to Detroit and said he didn't notice the young Nigerian sitting nearby.

An announcement came over the plane intercom to let passengers know they would be landing in Detroit in about 18 minutes, Kushwaha said. Then came the loud popping noise from one row back, he said.

He said he heard people screaming and then cheering when the fire was out, thanks to another passenger and a stewardess who held onto the Nigerian man and put out the flames.

From his seat, Kushwaha said, he briefly saw Abdulmutallab being ushered down the aisle wearing underwear, with his pants around his ankles. The Nigerian man didn't say anything, but he “looked scared,” Kushwaha said.

The plane landed about 10 minutes later. Kushwaha said he and the other passengers were held for several hours so FBI agents could interview them, check their passports and use dogs to search them.

He missed his connecting flight, which was supposed to take him home to Raleigh for Christmas. He called his wife, who was still in India, and told her what happened.

“She was very scared. She said, ‘Oh, God saved us,’” Kushwaha said.

From now on, Kushwaha said he will try to get a direct flight from India so he doesn’t have to change planes. Flying now scares him, he said.

“Somehow, we got all the people saved … but everyone could have died because of one bad (person),” he said.


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  • injameswetrust2003 Dec 29, 2009

    YourMileage / Deacons...

    Welcome to the world of communist censorship. A lot of times it depends on who is reading the blogs. Some of the moderators are more liberal than others.

    Regarding the terrorist, here is what should happen to him:
    [Comments left out to avoid WRAL censorship]

  • John Q Public Dec 29, 2009

    Obviously the problem with profiling is that you can't pigeonhole a Muslim. Muslim is not a race, most of the 9/11 terrorists would have easily passed for a Hispanic person. There are muslims all over north and central africa as well as India. There are also muslims in Indonesia where they have a much more Far Eastern look. The best option is just tougher restrictions. Yes that means if you're that guy roaming around the plane or putting up your laptop way after you've been told to sit down...then hey maybe you should be further penalized. No one person is better than another and doesn't deserve a free pass.

  • 3779LRRP Dec 29, 2009

    We can not tell by looking who intends to do harm to others.

    More reason to be aware of your surroundings. With emphasis on who possibly may want to do harm to you.

  • Roland K. Dec 29, 2009

    there is more to this story. a witness at the Amsterdam gate saw the bomber with an Indian companion explaining that the would-be bomber has no passport and needs to get on this flight. antiwar.com has some great news and interesting perspectives on all things Middle East

  • smcallah Dec 29, 2009

    "I wonder what would have happened if Bush had taken 3 days to respond to a terrorist's attack..."

    He would have announced that we were invading Iran, even though the terrorist came from Nigeria by the way of Yemen.

  • 5-113 FA Retired Dec 29, 2009

    Liar, liar; pants on fire!

    Oops, did I just say that?

  • james27613 Dec 29, 2009

    The man with the chemical explosive must not be to bright.
    Why wait until the landing to destroy the plane when
    he could have done so over the ocean so no black boxes or
    any survivors.

    Perhaps he got cold feet and did not want to kill himself.

  • My opinion not yours Dec 29, 2009

    There just happened to be someone from Raleigh!!!

  • anneonymousone Dec 29, 2009

    Of course I am not suggesting that all white men purportedly raised in Christian homes are terrorists.

    We can not tell by looking who intends to do harm to others.

  • anneonymousone Dec 29, 2009

    I'm not sure where snugglebunny's mean-spirited assumptions come from. If I were a gambler, I would wager that said rabbit was not on board. The fifth or twelfth person offering to help in some situations actually becomes a hindrance rather than a help, and it's better for him or her to stay out of the way.

    CWood3 wrote, "When America starts profiling people who look and act like bombers-instead of 80 year old grandmothers and 5 year old kids-we will be a safer nation."

    Like Timothy McVeigh? Like Bobby Frank Cherry? Like Thomas Blanton? Like Robert Edward Chambliss? Like Ted Kaczynski? Like Terry Nichols?