Return to Transcripts main page


Details of Northwest Airlines Flight 253

Aired December 27, 2009 - 16:00   ET



BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: ... coming in from all over the country and all over the world. Some as far south as South America. So we are tracking them for you here on flight explorer. The weather conditions, though, are a little snowy in Detroit.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we can see that from those pictures. It really has increased just in the past few minutes. There are a few flurries just a few minutes ago. And now it looks like a full-blown snowstorm that's on the way.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. You can see the visibility is going to get worse as the snow moves in from the south.

WHITFIELD: All right. Bonnie Schneider, thanks so much. We will check back with you in the next hour. It is almost 4:00 Eastern time. And we are going to bring you up to date on this story and many others.

So just two days after the botched terror attack on a plane flying into Detroit, another incident onboard this same flight coming into the same airport. Officials say that a passenger aboard today's flight 253 from Amsterdam became verbally disruptive and the plane landed safely about 12:30 Eastern time. And the passengers were allowed to deplane the jet.

Now has been removed from that secure location and being towed away. Presumably to a terminal after being sanitized, after being fully investigated. Investigators are questioning the disruptive passenger. And officials say that they did not find any kind of explosive device or anything suspicious that they are willing to share.

A law enforcement source calls it a non-serious incident and says the man does not appear to be a threat anymore. Flight 253 was the target of an attempted attack on Christmas day. Now you are looking at those pictures from Friday. The suspect in that flight has been charged with trying to destroy the aircraft. He has been released from the hospital where he was being treated for burns. Now he's being held at an undisclosed location.

CNN's Martin Savidge is at the Detroit airport with more on all that's transpiring now -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, what we are waiting for now is, of course, to talk to the passengers that were onboard flight 253 that was so heavily disrupted as a result of this incident today. We wanted to talk to them hours ago. Believing it was going to be a normal flight, to ask them what changes they had perceived in security measures because as a result of what happened here in Detroit on Christmas day, there, of course, have been new security measures that have been implemented particularly for international flights.

And we are told that those security measures include the fact that passengers for the last hour of their flight into the United States are not allowed to leave their seats. Not allowed to get up. Not allowed to have anything in their laps. They must remain where they sit. However, it appears that at least one of those passengers wasn't willing to live up to the new standards. And as we've already pointed out we had this altercation.

And it appears that the actions and the language and the outspokenness of this particular passenger today was enough to arouse suspicions and the ultimate reaction of emergency crews here. No one has been injured. One person is in custody. And there are 257 passengers that are waiting to get on with their journeys, here to Detroit or elsewhere.

But again, when that call came in from the aircraft, as it is coming to Detroit today, talk about deja vu and not a very enjoyable one for the security people here in the Detroit airport. Because once more, same plane, same airlines, coming from the same destination, having a similar announcement emergency onboard.

But again, the all-clear has been given here for now we are simply waiting to talk to the passengers to find out exactly what they saw and heard.

WHITFIELD: All right. Martin Savidge, thanks so much. Of course, there's 257 people really do want to get on with their day. CNN news source reporter Cheryl Jackson joins us on the phone from the Detroit airport.

I understand Cheryl, you actually are talking to someone who is waiting for an arriving passenger?

CHERYL JACKSON, CNN NEWS SOURCE REPORTER (via telephone): Yes. Linda Ryba has been sitting here. She has been waiting for three hours for her daughter, son-in-law to come back with her new grandbaby that has been adopted from Russia. And she is sitting here waiting. I want to ask you, Linda, when did you first hear there was trouble on the plane?

LINDA RYBA, WAITING FOR GRANDDAUGHTER (via telephone): Yesterday. I wasn't nervous. Everything is going to be OK.

JACKSON: And now as you wait, are you concerned that, you know, about anything? You just feel like everything is fine?

RYBA: Everything is fine. I'm not concerned about anything.

JACKSON: As you have been waiting, has it been hard to wait?

RYBA: Yes, it is hard to wait because I'm anxious to see my granddaughter and my daughter and my son-in-law.

JACKSON: So Fredricka, they have been sitting here for hours. And mostly we talked to several people who said that, you know, they were put at ease pretty early on, that this wasn't the same as the attack on Christmas day or the incident on Christmas day. And so many of the people we've talked to here today say, hey weren't concerned and they haven't had cell phone contact with their family members but they have been put at ease by airport officials and that everything is OK.

We did talk to one airport official that said that the luggage has been checked and the passengers have - or on a bus to this area. So they should be here within minutes and we are just waiting to see that happen.

WHITFIELD: OK. I guess it is pretty alarming to hear that they were feeling comforted, that they weren't concerned at all even though they are sitting there waiting for three hours, not knowing what was taking place involving their loved ones on this aircraft.

JACKSON: Well, what they said originally was that they were worried the plane had been delayed. There had been some problems. It took a while before they figured out there was actually an incident on the plane. So once they figured out there was an incident on the plane, airport officials came out and spoke to the family members and put them at ease that they really didn't feel like there wasn't anything big going on.

WHITFIELD: Cheryl Jackson, thanks so much from Detroit.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joining us as well. You have been working your sources throughout the afternoon for over three hours now. When we learned that this plane have made a safe landing, what are we hearing now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Fred, this was a case of nerves, of course, for everyone involved. But as we are all reporting, it now appears there was no security threat. Nonetheless, the bureaucracy certainly jumped into action.

Our sources telling that when the pilot radioed to the ground, that there was a problem in flight. This began one of these so-called disaster inter-agency phone calls amongst all of the relevant federal agencies, a Homeland Security official, federal aviation, transportation security, and the U.S. military. This is the standard procedure now in the post 9/11 world when there is a problem in the air, one of these conference calls that knits together the entire federal bureaucracy takes place so everyone is on the line and everyone knows what's going on. And they can respond and deploy.

The emergency - send the emergency personnel that are required. No military aircraft, even requested to escort this plane to the ground. By all accounts it was a passenger who went back and forth to the lavatory several times, spent an extended period in the lavatory and in some fashion became disruptive. Fred.

WHITFIELD: And could it have been, too, no military escort involved because when the call came in, the concern from the crew onboard this Northwest flight that simply it wouldn't have given them enough time? Maybe it was too close to the actual descent into Detroit?

STARR: Well, I don't think we actually know that yet, to be quite candid, exactly when the call came. But the U.S. - I should say the U.S. military has the ability to launch planes very quickly, fighter jets, to escort planes that - civilian airliners to the ground if there are concerns. They have planes on standby all over the country. And what happened Christmas day has not escaped the military's attention.

WHITFIELD: Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, thanks so much, from Washington.

Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve, also has been working her sources. She is joining us by phone from Washington. And Jean, an all-clear is being given.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is. According to one law enforcement official with whom I spoke, this individual told people investigating this incident that he was sick. That would be consistent with reports he was going back and forth to the bathroom on thus plane. We do know that this individual was Nigerian, possibly there was some kind of a language situation here, a problem communicating. We just don't know yet the full story.

But apparently authorities must be - find the story credible because they apparently have not found anything on this aircraft and they have sounded the all-clear. But of course, as we mentioned, the fact that it was the very flight coming from Amsterdam, the fact perhaps that this man was Nigerian, and the fact that he was spending a lot of time in a lavatory, something that could be preparation for some sort of terrorist incident. All those things, that all the alarm bells ringing today.

WHITFIELD: Right. On the heels the suspect in the Christmas day attempt, Nigerian and reportedly have spent about 20 minutes to 30 minutes in the bathroom before going to his seat and trying to light that device. Jeanne Meserve, thanks so much.

The president of the United States has been keeping close tabs on this latest security incident. Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry is in Honolulu where the president has been vacationing and where the president's office was quick to put out a statement on this incident as well.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred, the White House staff jumping right in, realizing given the fact that it was the same airport, same airline, same flight even that they had to react quickly and get the president some information.

We are told by deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton at about 9:00 a.m., Hawaiian time, we're five hours back from the East Coast, the president was notified by his chief of staff on the National Security Council, Dennis McDonough, that there was some sort of a disruption. Careful to note that they did not say that it was an attempted terror attack. Because as we're learning now it does not appear that there was a major threat of any kind.

Bill Burton saying "the president stressed the importance of maintaining heightened security measures for all air travel and gave instructions to set up another secure teleconference briefing as soon as possible. So as Barbara Starr has been reporting, the government was swinging into action with these various secure conference calls.

The president wanting to make sure the same procedures were followed as Christmas day when he convened such a secure conference call. Obviously, it appears like it was not quite as serious as before. But given the limited information the White House had initially, they clearly wanted to jump on this and make sure they ran all the traps very quickly, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ed Henry in Honolulu, thanks so much, with the vacationing president.

So we're going to turn to an expert in security matters, right now, Thomas Fuentes is a CNN contributor and former FBI assistant director of international operations. He is joining us now from San Francisco.

So we are being given an all-clear now, was this response to be expected however three hours after the landing, safe landing, of that plane?

THOMAS FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I think the response was appropriate. But Fredricka, speaking as a frequent flyer rather than a security official, these flights coming from Europe like that, they are about nine or 10 hours long. Passengers frequently sleep the duration of the flight until maybe the last hour. And then suddenly there's a mad dash of many people trying to get into very few number of bathrooms.

So I think that we could probably expect more disruptive passengers in the future when they are told you can't go to the bathroom within the last hour of the flight or you can't get up to take your medicine or you can't change your baby's diapers. And then possibly that flight comes in and ends up in a holding pattern for whatever reason and then the time it takes on the tarmac, time to get off of it. That's asking people to sit in those chairs a long time when they may have good reasons to want to get out of them.

WHITFIELD: So is this an unnecessary new precaution then in your view? I mean, is this the type of measure that has to be put into place as a result of what happened two days ago?

FUENTES: Well, certainly that's a TSA policy decision on whether it is necessary or not necessary. I'm only saying what the human factor is going to be of asking people to give up their pillows, blankets, and access to their carry-on baggage or bathroom for the full hour before that flight lands.

Even after 9/11, the restrictions were more like 20 minutes on flights coming into Washington, D.C.. So these long international flights, as I mentioned, people sleep. They wake up. They suddenly desperately need to make it to the bathroom. And there's probably going to be problems.

So if you couple a passenger wanting to get into a bathroom or stay in a bathroom because they are ill, who may - on top of that have an anger management problem, you know, I think you are going to see more problems like this for the flight crews.

WHITFIELD: All right. Tom Fuentes, thanks so much, from San Francisco.

FUENTES: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: Security slowdowns, bad weather, and inside one major airport, even a flood.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty much every possible negative experience I could have ever imagined has happened.


WHITFIELD: Getting home after Christmas is turning into a real nightmare for a lot of people. Also straight ahead, deadly protests in Iran amid some of the worst violence in months. We will have details.


WHITFIELD: Again, we are getting an all-clear on the incident today, concerns about a disruptive passenger leading to the landing of a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Landed safely. Now all the passengers and crew members onboard are all being allowed to go because it is being given an all-clear.

Apparently that unruly passenger not considered to be a threat anymore. All this taking place just two days after the investigation of a Christmas day attempted terror attack. An attack which now is being looked at and that investigation stretches all the way into Great Britain.

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in London where the suspect once lived and went to school. We know he is now facing charges of actually trying to blow up, attempting to blow up a U.S. aircraft. What more are we learning about him?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, we're learning some very interesting details. And we talked a little earlier to his high school teacher. This would be a teacher who knew him before he came to England in 2005 to study at the university. Just before he moved in to the apartment behind me. This teacher said a school, high school, he was a very devout Muslim. But interestingly he said when a classroom discussion came up about the Taliban, Abdulmutallab was the only student in the classroom who took up a pro-Taliban position.

This gives us a sort of insight into his thinking in those early years. When he came to university here and graduated from university here in 2008, his family were worried he had been perhaps being radicalized. They describe him as meeting people who they weren't in favor of, bad people. We are now into the second day of the counter terrorism police here investigating the apartment that Abdulmutallab lived in.

They are not telling us what they're finding but given the pace of their investigation, it does, it clearly is slow. It clearly is methodical. But They suspended overnight last night. And that really gives us to believe here, they are not chasing down some hot lead that is going to disrupt an ongoing terror plot.

So difficult to know what they are coming away with. They are not carrying out huge bags full of documents or equipment from the house that we can see here. It also appears tonight as if the police operation here is, again, beginning to wind down for the night. Another interesting development today, reports in the British media saying that Abdulmutallab applied to come back in the last few months to study again at university here in the U.K..

The British authorities had turned down that request. When we contacted the government department here responsible for that they told us that they could neither confirm nor deny it, that they wrap weren't going to knock this story down. So an indication there that British authorities perhaps already aware of some of his background. We are not sure what about yet but enough to say they weren't going to give him a visa to come back into the United Kingdom. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Nic Robertson in London, thank you so much for that.

So what would you do if there were a terror attack taking place on your plane? Right before your eyes.


JASON SCHIMANGA: When I saw that suspect, he was getting on fire, I freaked, of course. And without any hesitation I just jumped over all the seats.


WHITFIELD: An exclusive interview with a man who is being called the hero of flight 253.


WHITFIELD: Another look at our top stories. President Obama is ordering security reviews after last week's botched terror attack on a Northwest Airlines plane. The reviews will focus on airport security procedures and how terror watch lists are used. The suspect was on a watch list out of more than 500,000 names since last month.

And pioneering civil rights attorney Percy Sutton has died. He was Malcolm X's lawyer as well as an influential New York politician and broadcaster. Sutton also helped rescued the Apollo Theater and revitalized Harlem. He was 89.

An apparent change of heart from University of Florida head football coach Irvin Meyer. Less than 24 hours after he resigned due to health concerns, the "Associated Press" says Meyer will instead take an indefinite leave of absence, following the Gators' New Year's game against Cincinnati. Myers was - has won two college football national championships in the past three seasons at Florida.

Let's check in with our Bonnie Schneider because weather is still a factor in the form of snow hitting a lot of places and also disrupting a lot of flights.

SCHNEIDER: That's true. I have been taking a look at the weather conditions in and around the Detroit area with the incident there. It is interesting to note that of the 6,200 planes in the U.S. right now, all the ones that are scheduled to arrive have remained undisrupted. We don't have any delays.

I checked four different flights from Denver, Miami, Chicago. So far so good, they are scheduled to land on time or even a couple of minutes early. Despite the fact that actually in parts of the Great Lakes we're actually not seeing the best weather. Look at this. Visibility is poor across the Detroit area. And temperatures are pretty cold. It is about 29 degrees there. Winds coming in out of the southwest. So that takes the wind-chill factor down into the single digits. So it definitely is a chilly evening there.

And not just snowing in Detroit. We are also watching the potential for some very serious winter weather with winter storm warnings in effect right now for Erie, Pennsylvania. We are going to see some lake-effect snow as the air works its way over to warmer waters of the Great Lakes and dumps the heavy snow. Be prepared for that tonight.

If you are going back to work tomorrow morning, you may have to give yourself extra time to shovel out and clear off your car. It holds true as well for areas just to the north and east of Cleveland as well. We are going to see snow. And speaking of Ohio, Ohio cities are about to get hit hard with some snow tonight.

We have snow working its way into Cincinnati, all the way up to Columbus and Mansfield and it's been snowing steadily across Indianapolis. So far this evening, expect more of that as we get the wraparound effect from that big weather system that brought all the snow to the Midwest. It is slowly on the move. And we're getting a little bit of residual effects as well.

Accumulations with these systems will be light but the problem is so many people are traveling and it is going to make conditions a little bit tricky for those of you that have to hit the roads. To let you know as we look ahead to tomorrow, temperatures are going to be pretty cold. We have 20 in Minneapolis and 27 in Chicago.

And in terms of airport delays right now, I checked across the country. The only delays we have are in Newark, New Jersey, at Liberty International Airport. Flights arriving are about an hour behind schedule. Believe it or not despite the inclement weather, we don't have any delays across the U.S. at least at this hour. I'm monitoring it throughout the night though.

WHITFIELD: All right. Very good. Thank you so much. Bonnie Schneider, appreciate that.


WHITFIELD: When we come back, the very latest on today's security scare out of Detroit.


WHITFIELD: All right. We want to bring you up to date on the top story. Flight 253 from Amsterdam made another emergency landing at the Detroit airport today. Officials say a passenger became "verbally disruptive" and triggering new concerns about the same flight that was the target of a botched terror attack on Christmas day.

Well, this time, it appears to have been unfounded. Authorities found no explosives on the plane and after questioning this disruptive passenger they are actually dismissing the incident as "non serious."

Our Martin Savidge is at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Pretty tense, frightening tense moments for a lot of people going in and out of the airport. Of course, for the emergency response team that were at the ready when that flight made a landing.

SAVIDGE: Absolutely, Fredricka. Nerves have been on edge, of course, ever since the event that took place on Christmas day. Security measures have been beefed up. Then what happens today they get the call from the air, from the pilot, saying I have a problem with flight 253. This is Northwest Airlines. And we are coming in to Detroit.

So then we saw the images which, of course, looks strikingly like the images that we saw on Christmas day. Fortunately, the scenario onboard nowhere near as serious, nowhere near as dramatic. There have been no injuries. One person had been taken into custody. It does not appear that this person is going to be charged. It remains to be seen.

We are still waiting, though, to actually hear the story directly from the passengers. This drama played out on the runway here at Detroit Metro Airport for a number of hours. And even though it was quite clear, soon after the plane got on the ground, they were not dealing with anything associated with a terrorist sort of attack. Still there were no stones left unturned. They went through every piece of baggage that was put out on the runway. Drug-sniffing dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs and security personnel brought in. This was a good dress rehearsal. I guess you can say. But it is also an example of how in light of what happened here on Christmas Day, nothing, nothing is going to be taken for granted.

Also today, we should update you on the investigation regarding that incident that occurred with the original flight 253. The suspect, Umar Farouk Adul-Muttallab, 23-year-old Nigerian, has been released from the hospital. He had been at the University of Michigan Burn Trauma Center there where he had been undergoing treatment and in custody ever since he was arrested after the flight landed on Christmas Day.

Authorities will not say exactly when he was released. They will not say exactly where he is. Only that he was turned over to U.S. marshals that would be customary. And that he's in a safe and secure location, that's probably some sort of federal facility. Tomorrow it is expected that federal law enforcement officials will actually go before a judge to request they take a DNA sample from the suspect. We have not been told exactly why they want the DNA sample, only that they will be requesting it. So that's where things stand right now here in Detroit Fredricka on what has been a pretty tumultuous day.

WHITFIELD: To say the very least. Martin Savidge thanks so much.

Well President Obama remains on vacation in Hawaii but his spokesman says he's receiving regular briefings from investigators on Friday's attack against flight 253.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would say the two priorities the president has right now, first and foremost, ensuring the safety and security of the American people and doing everything that we can and continue to do everything that we can to make sure that that's happening.

And secondly, David, he's asked for two different reviews to be conducted which you heard Secretary Napolitano mention. First, digging into the listing procedures that she talked about figuring out if the information at the U.S. government had was used properly. But also, to go back and look at the protocols for how listing is done.


WHITFIELD: That was the White House in response to Friday's incident. But the White House did have a response today for what took place in Detroit. The president stressed the importance of maintaining heightened security measures for all air travel.

All right. If you are flying home after the holidays, your trip back may be more of a hassle than your trip out. We will tell what you to expect and how to prepare.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories. Authorities in Tehran are now confirming several people have been killed in clashes today between anti-government protesters and security forces. Iran's deputy police chief also says that more than 300 protesters were arrested. The protest happened during a Muslim religious holiday.


BRIAN COLE, AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: Thankful to be home with my family. And I have are the highest gratitude for first officer and the flight attendants that were with us on that flight, to get everybody home to their families.


WHITFIELD: That was the pilot of this American Airlines jet that skidded off of a rain slicked runway last week in Kingston, Jamaica. He says he is thankful to be back home with his friends and family here in the U.S. Brian Cole praised his flight crew, as you heard there, for their quick action. All 154 passengers onboard survived.

The Federal Prosecutors Office in Detroit confirms to CNN that the Nigerian charged with trying to blow up an American Airlines flight was actually a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day has been moved from the hospital to a secure location. Umar Farouk Abdul- Muttallab was treated for burns after he allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device.

The doors are open and the shelves are full but no one there to take your money. An unusual story that ends with an actually surprise. We will talk about that.


WHITFIELD: We are officially hearing it has been given an all- clear. Talking about the incident at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport today involving Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. The Department of Homeland Security is now assessing it this way in this written statement. I have to take a sip of water. Sorry about this.

Saying, quote, a passenger on today's Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit spent an unusually long time in the aircraft lavatory due to this unusual behavior, the airline notified TSA and the agency, directed the flight to taxi to a remote upon landing to be met by law enforcement and DHS. The passenger in question a Nigerian national, was removed from the flight and interviewed by the FBI. Indications at this time are that the individual's behavior is due to legitimate illness and no other suspicious behavior or materials have been found though this does not appear at this time to be a security incident.

Again, I'm reading from a Department of Homeland Security statement about what took place in Detroit today. An abundance of caution, the aircraft was fully screened and with negative results and all baggage is being rescreened before the aircraft actually taxis to the gate. We thought it was important that you hear the entire statement from the Department of Homeland Security about what took place earlier today. Now given an all-clear on that Northwest Airlines flight that had that landing and that moment of emergency there in Detroit.

As a whole, air travelers are seeing longer screening lines and heightened security. Not because of what took place today but really what took place on Christmas day out of Detroit. CNN's Kara Finnstrom is joining us now from Los Angeles International Airport.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Fredricka. Well U.S. officials saying that anyone taking an international or a domestic flight should expect some extra delays today because security will be increased. But the most visible security changes we have seen have been here in the International terminal. You can see one of the x-ray screening machines. Passengers have been telling us that there have been additional x-ray screenings of their luggage. Also additional hand searches of their luggage and they also say they have been undergoing some pat-downs from security officials who are checking the passengers themselves.

And they tell us they have been asked during the last hour of their flight into the U.S. to pretty much stay in their seats, their movements have been greatly limited. We want to speak to passengers that have just come in getting ready to board a flight today. Knowing that there is additional security in place, any precautions you took today? Did you get here a little bit earlier?


(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): Yes, I did. Just considering it was Christmas weekend, too. And maybe people were returning back from wherever, families or whatever. And just because of international three hours prior.

FINNSTROM: I know you told me you didn't have too many safety concerns.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): No, because I think you guys are doing your job, yes. These guys are doing their job in checking every baggage thoroughly. That makes us more secure.

FINNSTROM: Thanks for joining us. Let you catch your flight. We did speak with a few of the folks that were coming off of flights about what they actually experienced on those flights coming into the U.S.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): Coming into the plane, Mexico City, they searched all of our bags individually, the security guys. And then they searched us like a body search, each one of us. But I -- I assumed that was the only thing that happened in this particular flight.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): We came in, we had to make sure we were seated and had nothing on our lap. No pillows or blankets. Bit strange, I thought. Precaution for them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FINNSTROM: You see the screenings taking place within the airport here. We also took some video earlier today. Some of the extra physical security that we can see here within the international terminal, they had police officers with weapons stationed throughout the terminal. We checked with them and asked them if there were any changes in their role here. They declined to comment. We can also tell you that outside at least a dozen airport police vehicles were stationed, pulled right up to the terminals. So at the very least a very visible show of force by the airport police here and of monitoring.

And TSA officials also telling passengers who are traveling today that they may see different things at different airports, because they went through security measures to remain unpredictable.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kara Finnstrom thanks so much, appreciate that.

OK. So get ready for some big ups and downs on Wall Street this week as well. We will explain why.


WHITFIELD: All right. News affecting your money. In business in the week ahead. Look for a volatile week on Wall Street. Markets close on Friday for the New Year's holiday, of course. Many traders are taking the full week off. That means lower volume and lower volume often means it takes less to make big bumps in the Dow and Nasdaq numbers.

So how are you feeling about the economy overall? We got a fresh read on optimism on Tuesday. The conference board releases its consumer confidence index. Most economists expect the number to bump up. It is one of the few economic signs that we'll have in the final days of the year.

The gift buying may be behind you but this is one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year. Retailers are putting their hopes in post-holiday bargain hunters. Most won't report sales numbers until next month. And the National Retail Federation is estimating a 1 percent drop in holiday sales this year.

Bonnie Schneider with me now before we turn the NEWSROOM into the chat room and talk about interesting things that sometimes fall off radar but this one is likely to be on the front page of all sports pages and actually news pages as well because we are talking about one of the winningest football coaches of college stature in recent years. University of Florida football fans are quite shocked to hear that Urban Meyers says you know what; I'm going take a leave of absence because of health reasons. But then comes back to say it is going to be more of an indefinite leave. Not really sure what the difference is.

SCHNEIDER: You make a decision and they say sleep on it before -- that's exactly what happened. He slept on it and woke up the next day and said, OK, I'm not resigning. I will take a leave of absence. I hope his health is better. That was the issue behind the resignation.

WHITFIELD: For health reasons not considered life threatening but it is still unclear what the health reasons are. What's indefinite mean? We have gotten to be a little familiar with indefinite leave of absence with the whole Tiger Woods thing, saying he's indefinitely leaving this sport and now people are wondering do you mean indefinite forever. Or does it --

SCHNEIDER: He could change his mind; it will be as soon as he can actually do it, with health reasons consenting to that.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and he's revered by so many. Not just in the realm of football, on the college level. But really on all levels because he really has an incredible track record. Taking into international title at least twice. And, you know, kids -- kids and other players consider him a real father figure, too.


WHITFIELD: As a coach for Florida.

SCHNEIDER: Well I hope that he feels better and can return soon because the fans will want to see him back.

WHITFIELD: I know. Something else that really kind of is part of the holiday spirit. We are talking about a store that somehow left the doors open on Christmas, the store was closed, however. People decided to shop.

SCHNEIDER: Two stores, the Safeway stores. Over Christmas Eve the stores were left unlocked, one for a few hours and one for half the night. When the employees returned the next day they found people shopping and leaving money on the counter. Nobody was taking anything. Nothing was stolen.

WHITFIELD: Christmas miracle. Shoppers were kind of wondering why are the doors open. Surely it is open intentionally. I will get my things. I don't see anybody at the register. I will leave money.

SCHNEIDER: It goes to show that people are honest; given the opportunity they left the money on the counter.

WHITFIELD: This has been an unusual holiday season. Weather impacted the holiday traveling in a very large part. Then the terrorist scare. And now we are back to weather being a very serious, I guess, component of getting back home.

SCHNEIDER: Well, the worst of the storm, Fred, actually hit Christmas Eve which is one of the busiest travel days. Now we are in the weekend after Christmas people are looking to return home or maybe take another vacation. As we get into New Year's. The storm is not as bad but still, unfortunately, tracking the threat of wintry weather in the Great Lakes, snowing in Detroit and snowing in Columbus, Ohio. But we are also watching the threat for icy conditions across the northeast. We are not quite done yet. It is really feeling like it is winter. Temperatures are going to be really cold out there for the remainder of tonight and into tomorrow. Those of you that are getting a tropical getaway, you picked the right time to do it.

WHITFIELD: Lucky for them. Most of us are stuck in the nasty weather. Thanks so much. Happy New Year.

SCHNEIDER: You, too.

WHITFIELD: People get ready to celebrate and ring in 2010. Can you believe it?

SCHNEIDER: Went by fast.

WHITFIELD: One decade gone, another one on the way. Bonnie Schneider thanks so much.


WHITFIELD: They are calling this man a hero of flight 253.


JASPER SCHURINGA, PASSENGER FLIGHT 253: Without any hesitation I jumped over all the seats and I just jumped to suspect. Like he's trying to blow up the plane.


WHITFIELD: A Dutch tourist takes action to save his fellow passengers. Our interview with Jasper Schuringa.


WHITFIELD: All right. Jasper Schuringa was a passenger onboard flight 253, Christmas Day. He leapt over the seats to get to the terror suspect and helped stop the attack from going a step further. I spoke with him yesterday.


SCHURINGA: I reacted on the bang. Suddenly there was smoke in the cabin. People were screaming, fire, fire. First thing we all did is check to where the fire was. Then I saw the suspect on the seat.

WHITFIELD: How many rows back were you? Were you behind the suspect when this smoke --

SCHURINGA: I was on the right side of the plane. The suspect was on the left. There were quite some seats in between. When I saw that suspect, he was getting on fire. I freaked, of course. Without any agitation, I just jumped over all the seats. I just jumped to the suspect because I was thinking, like, he's trying to blow up the plane. So I was trying to search his body for any explosives. Then I took some kind of object that was already melting and smoking out of him, and I tried to put out the fire. When I did that, I was also restraining the suspect. Then the fire started beneath his seat. With my hands and everything, you can see it's a little burned up, I put out the fire. Other passengers helped me, as well.

Of course I was screaming for water, water, because we had fire in a plane is not that good, of course. But then the fire was getting a little worse because what I did didn't extinguish the fire. I grabbed the suspect out of the seat because if he was wearing any more explosives, it would be very dangerous because he was on fire. When I grabbed him from the seat, the cabin crew came and came with fire extinguishers. They got it clear of all the flames. Just to be sure, I grabbed him with another attendant and we took him to first class and stripped him and detained him with handcuffs and made sure he had no more weapons or bombs on him.

WHITFIELD: Jasper, when you saw, you talk about how something underneath the seat was on fire. Was something on fire on him or was it, did it appear to be the seat that he may have set on fire and then as a result he also burned, as well?

SCHURINGA: Like he put something on fire that was hidden in his pants and apparently was dripping. I think the liquid or anything like that dripped on the floor and two pillows got ignited. It went very quick. Like we are all just reacting to the fire and everybody was panicking.

WHITFIELD: Tell me about him. Was he fighting you? Was he struggling? Did he seem upon discovery to just kind of let it go and you all were able to --

SCHURINGA: He was just very calm. He was shaking. He didn't resist anything. He was just sitting there. He looked like a normal guy, as well. It was just hard to believe that he was actually going to try to blow up this plane.

WHITFIELD: Was there anything about him prior to that incident that ever made you look at him? Did you suspect anything? Did anything catch your attention about him?

SCHURINGA: Nothing, nothing. It was a big surprise when we heard the first explosion. People were looking around; this is not good, what's going on? The first person shouted fire. I got to my sense and this is where I go.

WHITFIELD: Some of the passengers described it like hearing a pop. What did you hear prior to the smoke and fire?

SCHURINGA: First it was a pop. Like about 30 seconds later, the smoke started to fill up on the left side beneath this person. From that on, we just jumped and tried to save the plane. We did, luckily.

WHITFIELD: It sounds like you had an incredible response there, very quick. You think about international flights, often times when you get close to that dissent somewhere in that last hour on a transatlantic flight, many people have been sleeping, you're a little groggy. When you heard the pop, when you heard people talking about the smoke, how quick was it to actually react? Was there a moment where you said, really must be nothing?

SCHURINGA: I basically reacted directly. I didn't think. When you hear a pop on the plane, you're awake, trust me. I just jumped. I didn't think. I just went over there and tried to save the plane.


WHITFIELD: All right. That was Jasper Schuringa. He was one of the people who helped apprehend or at least contain the suspect in that Northwest Airlines flight 253 that was Christmas Day.

Let's check in with our Josh Levs I think now to give us an idea of how people have been responding to the latest incident that took place today involving the same airline, same flight number, and the outcome very different. We are hearing that there is an all-clear now on the incident and emergency situation today.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Marathon three hours, Fred. Marathon three hours. What happened from when we first got word there was something going on with an airplane that it was the same flight, all the way up until now. You can get all the details, let's get to it. here right here, want to show you some of the headlines we have for you. First of all over here, deja vu, same flight another scare. This one non-serious. We are talking you through all the details if you are just joining us of what has happened the last few hours.

Let's go over here, this is also interesting. This is from Janet Napolitano saying that there's no evidence of a wider plot. This was earlier today and she is head of the Department of Homeland Security. She was talking to CNN. You can watch the video there. About the fact that based on what they saw yesterday, there was no evidence of this being part of a larger plot at this time.

One more headline I want to show you before I go, all at Obama orders review of flight screenings. This is interesting. Check out some specifics on what the president now wants reviewed in the wake of not just this latest thing this afternoon but what happened before on Christmas Day. I got a few seconds left so let me tie up with this. We have a couple of affiliates here that posted some photos to their websites. This is as up close as you will get to what happened today at the airport in Detroit. This is from WDIB. Click on They have some pretty up-close photos. When you take a look at these on their website you can see what happened when the plane was surrounded by these vehicles, when there were the security concerns. People being allowed down there and into this little bus, so a lot coverage for you to check out at, we also link you to our affiliates. We have all the details for you updated throughout the night.

WHITFIELD: Look forward to that. Thanks so much, Josh. Appreciate that. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, thanks for being with us the past few hours and our continuing coverage. I will be back in an hour from now. The botched attack on flight 253 has many people wondering, is al Qaeda showing new signs of life and we will be talking about that incident on Christmas Day.