Passengers on board the Etihad Airways flight from Melbourne, Australia, to the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi said multiple fires sent smoke into the cabin and appeared to have been deliberately set. By Thursday morning, all had been allowed to continue on their journeys. “In the absence of any conclusive incriminating evidence, no arrests have been made at this time,” the airline said.
Star Tribune (h/t Kenneth N) Smoke was detected in two toilets after takeoff from Melbourne on Monday, prompting a precautionary diversion to Jakarta, Indonesia, and again in a toilet as the plane made its way to its destination of Abu Dhabi, according to the government-backed airline. None of the 254 passengers and crew was removed from the flight in Indonesia. Several passengers said that decision was unnerving given the fears that the fires were started by someone on board.
Twelve people were detained upon arrival in Abu Dhabi as authorities investigated the case. A young woman who had attracted the suspicions of some passengers was among those initially detained, witnesses said. “The real story is: Who was the idiot woman trying to burn a plane down, and why,” passenger Mark Sinclair, 45, said by email. “She should be in jail for a very long time.”
ABC Five hours into the flight from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi on Monday, someone deliberately lit a fire in the toilets. After a second incident, flight EY461 diverted to Jakarta where the aircraft was inspected and passengers searched. Two hours later it resumed its journey, but there was yet another blaze in another lavatory. For the final two hours of the flight, cabin crew stood guard at every toilet door.
Passenger Dale Henderson was woken by a fire alarm after the first fire was lit. “Smoke [was] billowing around inside the fuselage a little bit and a smell of burnt plastic,” he said. “Paper had been shoved in the waste basket, along with sick bags which are coated with a wax lining. Also a little bit of alcohol was apparently used to get the fire going,” he said.
“Terrorism, basically. Pretty concerning to know that somebody in the plane after the first attempt had basically a death wish to try to bring the plane down and everybody on board.”
He says cabin crew told passengers that the second fire had brought them 90 seconds from disaster. “They said if they hadn’t have reached the second fire in the back of the plane within another 90 seconds, if there had been another 90 seconds later, we would have been history, they reckon,” he said.