Saturday, February 20, 2010
A Michigan college student who sat next to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day says the accused terrorist’s actions suggested he was in over his head. Jay Howard says that Abdulmutallab mostly slept and listened to music during the flight and seemed surprised when asked about the smoke that apparently came from under his blanket.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The man at the center of this story, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, remains in federal custody in Michigan. It’s been nearly two months now since he allegedly tried to blow up Northwest Flight 253. On that flight, Abdulmutallab was in seat 19A. In 19B was Jay Howard, a 21-year-old college student from Grand Rapids, returning home from a semester abroad. He spoke with my co-host Michele Norris about that flight.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Melissa, Jay Howard says there was nothing unusual about Abdulmutallab. He said he was just an average seatmate.
Mr. JAY HOWARD (Student): I had gotten in first, so when he came by, I had to stand up and let him in. And then he thanked me for getting up for him, and we sat down together.
NORRIS: Throughout that flight, their interaction was minimal. Abdulmutallab told Howard he felt ill. And he mostly listened to music and slept. Then 10 minutes into the plane’s final descent, everything changed.
Mr. HOWARD: Well, there was a large pop – like, almost everyone on the plane, I’m sure, I heard it. So, I was very curious to what had happened because it sounded very close to me. So, I was looking around and I noticed that my neighbor, Umar, had his blanket up over him, up to his chin and but I saw that there was smoke coming from underneath his blanket. And I also noticed a repulsive smell. And so I kind of questioned him, and I asked him about the smoke but he didn’t respond. And so, I removed his blanket from him and smoke dispersed throughout the plane.
And he had his hand down his pants. So, when he removed his hands from his pants, fire erupted. And he and another passenger, who had come over from a couple of rows away, tried to put it out together. So…
NORRIS: Well, if I can just reach back for a minute, when you asked him about the smell, when he had the blanket pulled up to his chin, did he just ignore you?
Mr. HOWARD: Well, he didn’t exactly ignore me. At that point, I just what I got out of him was that he didn’t exactly know either but, of course, he did know. He seemed very surprised and shocked at what was happening, like he didn’t know.
Full story here.