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One month after a mysterious fire started on an American Airlines flight, a 23-year-old flight attendant admitted to intentionally setting the blaze.

Jordi Lippe-McGraw
March 03, 2016

A month after a suspicious fire forced an emergency landing for an American Airlines flight to Detroit, the FBI has arrested one of the flight attendants, who earlier this week admitted to setting the blaze himself.

According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court, Johnathan Tafoya-Montano made up several stories, eventually admitting that he intentionally lit paper towels in the rear lavatory with a green Bic lighter. Once the flame grew, he extinguished it.

The 23-year-old was initially touted as a hero for putting out the fire and declaring an emergency on the plane, though witnesses on Flight 1418 ultimately came forward saying no one had used the restroom for at least 15 to 20 minutes prior to the fire.

Exactly one month after the incident, the FBI interviewed Tafoya-Montano, who confessed. He was charged with “destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities” and “false statements or entries generally.”  

The Texas-based flight attendant made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Detroit on March 3 before being escorted back on a flight to Dallas. It’s still unclear why he started the fire.

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