Video: Sick passenger triggers another plane scare

  1. Closed captioning of: Sick passenger triggers another plane scare

    >> much. there was a second scare aboard the same northwest flight on sunday. this time, involving a passenger who refused to leave the bathroom. nbc's kevin tibbles is at the detroit metro airport . kevin , good morning to you and what happened?

    >> reporter: good morning, meredith , well security officials say it was like deja vu , they couldn't believe it when it was happening. the same airline, the same flight number , 253, the same city of origin, amsterdam, and the same destination, when a man locked himself in one of the airplane lavatories and essentially refused to come out for over an hour. security officials were called, the police was organized here on the ground. and when the plane landed, they finally got the man out. but the plane had already been escorted over to a secure part of the airport, the luggage was taken off and screened by officials and all of the passengers were taken and held in a security area for sometime. as it turns out, meredith , this was not a repeat of friday's incident. but in fact the man who was inside the lavatory, was genuinely sick. he was interviewed by the fbi and later released when they realized he actually had a true story to tell. he wasn't very well. he was a businessman from nigeria, on his way to the united states . it just goes to show, meredith , in our post-9/11 world, especially with christmas day's incident, that there is a heightened sense of security, not only here in the united states , but everywhere.

    >> kevin , with this heightened security in place, i know you actually flew yesterday. what was that like?

    >> well, i took what is called an international flight. in spite of the fact i was just coming over from canada. but already you can see what is in place up there. the delays were running somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three hours. each person after passing through security had their hand luggage checked a second time. i was patted down, my family was patted down prior to getting on the airplane. and then of course, once on the airport we were not allowed to have any hand luggage underneath the seat, everything had to be put overhead and everyone had to stay in their seat for the entire flight. because our flight was less than an hour. and we understand that that's happening on all flights coming into this country, meredith .

    >> i don't think air travel will ever be the same. kevin tibbles. with more, here's

updated 12/28/2009 8:39:51 AM ET 2009-12-28T13:39:51

Armed officers on Sunday rushed aboard the same Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight that was attacked on Christmas Day, but the perceived threat wasn't much of a danger — just an ill traveler who spent too much time in the bathroom.

Coming so soon after a Nigerian was accused of trying to blow up a plane , authorities quickly responded to an emergency call from the crew on Flight 253 from Amsterdam. Some of the 256 passengers were rattled while others apparently weren't aware of the incident.

Tim Jeronimus, 13, said he was "a bit nervous" when officers entered, and his 11-year-old sister, Emma, said she was scared.

Their mother, Jane Jeronimus, said the captain told passengers that no arrival gates were available.

"I said to my husband, 'That's not true,'" she later recalled inside the terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Airport police and border officers then entered the cabin to remove the man from the plane.

Bomb-sniffing dogs
Passengers were safely evacuated, and luggage was lined up on the ground for inspection by bomb-sniffing dogs.

The passenger, also a Nigerian, was a businessman who was sick and posed no security threat, said two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident.

The traveler in question had "spent a lengthy time in the restroom," FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.

"This raised concerns so an alert was raised. ... The investigation shows that this was a non-serious incident and all is clear at this point," she said.

The passenger was released after questioning, Berchtold said.

The man used the bathroom several times during the trip and refused to come out as the plane was preparing to land, said Lester Robinson, head of the Wayne County Airport Authority.

"The guy didn't want to stay in his seat," said Henna Solamaa, a traveler from Finland who was aboard the Airbus 330 on Sunday.

Passengers apparently saw no cause for concern until the man got up to go to the bathroom after crew members told passengers to stay in their seats for the last hour of the flight. Witnesses said people seemed more concerned that somebody was defying crew orders, not that the man seemed suspicious.

Tim Jeronimus said crew members banged on the bathroom door several times, and the passenger refused to get out.

The Jeronimus family was sitting near the passenger. They were returning home to Ann Arbor, Mich., from a visit with relatives in the Netherlands.

Just two days earlier, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, attempted to destroy a plane by igniting an explosive on his body shortly before arrival in Detroit, the FBI says. Passengers pounced on him to extinguish the flames.

That scare has led to new security rules that were a factor in Sunday's incident. Passengers were told to stay in their seats and keep their laps clear for the final hour.

"Even if you're sick, you have to pay respect to what the flight crew is saying," said Robert Ficano, Wayne County chief executive.

Gregory Tucker, 42, of The Hague, Netherlands, said he didn't see or hear any disruption.

"It didn't seem particularly effective," Tucker said of the new security rules.

Hitesh Desai said he was anxious throughout the incident.

"It does feel surreal that this is happening," Desai, 45, of Rochester Hills, Mich., said later.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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