Pat Cheek

A Hero In Manuel Antonio

All he wanted was a cigarette and a rum & coke – and to catch his next plane to Miami.

I recently got to meet with a hero enjoying a hot dog and a cold beer at El Wagon –home of the BEST HOT DOG in MA as the guest of Alan Templeton of Costa Verde. He was here visiting his sister who lives in Jaco with his friend Karina from Miami. This was a trip he had been waiting 5 years to make and if circumstances had been different on December 25th it might never have taken place, but happily for about 270+ people, he turned out to be a hero and made it to Costa Rica……. it happened like this:

It had been a long, but uneventful flight. It was Christmas Day on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. The flight was about to land when a couple of very loud pops where heard – something like firecrackers and totally out of place. Shortly someone was yelling “fire – fire” – that’s when Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch film maker, looked up to see smoke rising from a passenger a few rows in front of him and on the other side of the plane. Jasper jumped up and over the seats to put out the fire. The passenger on fire wasn’t moving or talking and Jasper said he seemed to be in a trance. It was apparent that this was not an accident. There was liquid from a container dripping fire down his pants and they were on fire. Jasper was yelling for water or a fire extinguisher and using pillows to put out the fire. He received burns to his hands but they were minor. He stripped off the man’s clothes and got him in a headlock to assist the flight attendant with moving him to First Class where he was totally stripped to be sure that he had no other explosives on his body and handcuffed.

The plane landed safely and the man was removed into the custody of the FBI. Jasper was taken into interrogation for 5 hours where his clothes were removed as evidence. He said “the FBI looked just like on TV”. They asked if they could get him anything and he answered a cigarette and a rum & coke—-he repeated this a few times and nothing came – finally one of the agents took him to the bathroom for a cigarette – he never got that rum & coke! What he really wanted was to catch the plane to Miami where his friend Karina was waiting so they could continue their vacation to Costa Rica. After a few days of media craziness things settled down and they were able to fly here to our little paradise for a great visit and vacation.

As Jasper sipped his cold beer he was relaxed, tan from the beach and obviously happy to have finally made it here to see his sister – we are too.