FBI: American Airlines Flight Attendant Deliberately Set, Put Out Fire In Plane’s Bathroom

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Federal law enforcement officers have arrested an American Airlines flight attendant accusing him of deliberately starting a fire in the plane’s lavatory, and then extinguishing it himself in a supposedly heroic action. 

The 23-year-old man was charged by federal agents with destruction of an aircraft or aircraft facilities and false statement or entries generally for the Feb. 1 incident, the FBI said in a statement. 

According to the agency, the man was working as part of a crew on an American Airlines flight traveling from Dallas to Detroit when he allegedly found and extinguished a fire in the rear lavatory.

The incident was reported to the captain, who, in turn, notified the control tower and the aircraft was granted emergency status for its descent into Detroit. The plane landed safely and all passengers and flight crew were uninjured.

This week, the FBI announced the employee was arrested after an investigation into the incident by the National Transportation Safety Bureau concluded that the fire was started deliberately and that no one else had been in the bathroom for at least 15 to 20 minutes prior to the fire being found.

According to the FBI and NTSB, at some point during the flight the attendant reportedly used a Bic lighter to set fire to paper towels in the bathroom.

After putting out the fire, the crew member allegedly exited the bathroom, stood in the hallway for several minutes and then pretended to discover the fire.

He then extinguished the remaining smoldering paper towels with a fire extinguisher after declaring an emergency to the other flight attendants, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The FBI says in a statement that after being arrested on Monday, the flight attendant admitted to setting the fire himself. He was charged and released on bond on condition that he did not fly without permission from a court.

A spokesperson for American Airlines tells NBC News that the airline takes “this matter very seriously, and have been cooperating with law enforcement throughout their investigation.”

FBI: Flight attendant set bathroom on fire on Detroit-bound plane [The Detroit Free Press]
Flight Attendant Started Fire in Lavatory on American Airlines Jet: FBI [NBC News]