Maryland Man Among Heroes on Flight 253

Says he's the first passenger to notice smoke

By Kathy Banks
|  Wednesday, Dec 30, 2009  |  Updated 8:45 PM EDT
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Maryland Man Subdues Terror Suspect on Flight 253

Richard Griffith

This photo, taken by Flight 253 passenger Richard Griffith, shows the seat where the suspect was sitting during the attempted attack on Christmas day. Griffith, an electrical contractor in Iraq who was on his way home, took the photo as he was de-planing.

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Maryland Man Subdues Terror Suspect on Flight 253

Alain Ghonda of Silver Spring tells News 4's Chris Gordon how he and other passengers responded to the terror threat during their Christmas Day flight to Detroit.
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"I just did what I had to do", Alain Ghonda said.

On Christmas Day, Ghonda, of Silver Spring, Md., was sitting in seat 18H on Northwest Flight 253, one row ahead of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a man suspected of trying to blow up the plane.  

Even though the seat belt sign was on in preparation for landing, Ghonda was standing to let another passenger return to her seat.  That's when he said he heard a "loud explosion" and spotted smoke.

It might have been a good thing he was standing at the time.

Ghonda said he was the first to alert the flight attendants about the threat and they, along with two Dutch passengers, were able to subdue the suspect, possibly preventing them all from doom.

The suspect had allegedly smuggled chemicals in his underwear along with tools to trigger an explosion.  

Ghonda is a real estate consultant and has lived in Silver Spring for 13 years with his wife and three children.    He was returning home from a business trip to Ghana.

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