New York man sues airlines over underwear bomber incident

Story highlights

  • A man is suing two airlines for $10 million
  • He says he was injured after tackling the "underwear bomber" during a Detroit-bound flight
  • Both airlines declined to comment on the lawsuit
A New York man is suing two airlines for $10 million, saying he was injured when he tackled the "underwear bomber" during a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day in 2009.
Theophilus Maranga filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New York, alleging that he sustained physical and psychological injuries during the incident.
He is suing Delta Airlines and Air France-KLM for neglecting to prevent Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab from boarding Flight 253 on Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta Airlines.
Both airlines declined to comment on the lawsuit.
It is unclear how federal agencies partner with authorities abroad to screen for potentially dangerous passengers aboard U.S.-bound flights and what responsibilities airlines bear in that process.
The 2009 incident -- referenced in the lawsuit -- started when passengers heard a loud noise aboard the plane, sounding much like a firecracker, according to Jonathan Tukel, chief of the National Security Unit for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Michigan.
AbdulMutallab became enveloped in a fireball that then spread to the wall and carpeting of the plane, yet he remained in his seat "expressionless, completely blank," Tukel said.
Four passengers restrained him and helped put out the fire, he added, and AbdulMutallab was escorted up to the first-class section of the plane.
Georgia resident Dimitrios Bessis said he was among the passengers who put out the fire. Michael Zantow, a 20-year Army veteran, was another of those who tried to restrain the suspected bomber.
Within a minute of the loud sound on the plane, a passenger said to AbdulMutallab, "Hey man, your pants are on fire!" Zantow later testified.
The Nigerian native, who in October pleaded guilty to trying to blow up the airplane, is facing the prospect of life behind bars.
U.S. officials say the terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the bombing attempt.
Earlier this week, AbdulMutallab -- who has been acting as his own court representative -- asked U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds to replace attorney Anthony Chambers, who had been advising him.
In a handwritten letter to Edmunds, he said wants a different adviser, preferably a Muslim male attorney, citing that his relationship with Chambers had been strained.