Flight Attendant Sets Fire to Bathroom During American Airlines Flight


The FBI has arrested an American Airlines flight attendant who allegedly set an aircraft bathroom on fire while aboard a flight, and then portrayed himself as a hero when he was really the culprit.

According to court documents, Johnathan Tafoya-Montano, made up several accident stories, but eventually admitted to authorities that he intentionally set fire to the rear lavatory’s paper towels using a green Bic lighter, and then put the fire out once it gained intensity during the Dallas-to-Detroit flight on Feb. 1.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, after putting out the fire, the flight attendant exited the bathroom, stood in the hallway for several minutes and pretended to discover a fire. He then extinguished the remaining smoldering paper towels with a fire extinguisher after declaring an emergency to the other flight attendants.

The captain was notified. The control tower was alerted and Flight 1418 was granted emergency status to land at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. No one was injured.

One month later, charges were filed.

The 23-year-old made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Tuesday. He was released on bond and then escorted by an FBI agent to Detroit Metro Airport, where he boarded a 3:23 p.m. American Airlines Flight back to Dallas.

And he had no wiggle room to get into any trouble.

The magistrate judge ordered the defendant to remain seated the entire flight, during which a corporate security officer would ride along next to the accused to make sure he stayed put.

According to court testimony, Tafoya-Montano had worked for American Airlines for about a year and a half. Before that, he worked for a doctor’s office in New Mexico, where he spent most of his life and has close family ties. His only brush with the law involves a DUI conviction in 2014 in Albuquerque, N.M., for which he got probation.

The FBI arrested Tafoya-Montano on Monday after an investigation revealed that he was the one who set the fire aboard the airline on Feb. 1.

A motive is not immediately known.

According to an FBI agent’s affidavit, the FBI and airport police interviewed several passengers and all of the flight’s crew members, including Tafoya-Montano. No one had used the lavatory at least 15 to 20 minutes prior to the fire, and only Tafoya-Montano and another flight attendant were in the vicinity of the bathroom when the fire started.

On Tuesday, the FBI interviewed Tafoya-Montano, who admitted that all of his previous statements about the fire were not true, court records show. He recanted all of his “accident” stories and admitted that he intentionally set the fire to the paper towels using a Bic lighter.

Tafoya-Montano is charged with “destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities” and “false statements or entries generally.”  Among the conditions of his bond is that he cannot fly aboard an airplane without the permission of the court.

His court-appointed attorney was not available for comment.

SOURCE: Tresa Baldas
Detroit Free Press