Saturday, December 17, 2011
A Hispanic flight attendant who started a fire on an aircraft mid-flight just so he could play the hero by putting it out has been jailed for more than six years
Eder Rojas, 23, risked the lives of 72 passengers and four crew members, when he set fire to paper towels in the plane's rear bathroom while he was working on the Compass Airlines flight. Investigators accused Rojas, of Woodbury, Minnesota, of starting the fire because he was unhappy about working the route from Minneapolis to Regina, Saskatchewan. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Shasky said that Rojas could have created a fireball on the Compass plane because of the oxygen on board. Rojas had taken a lighter aboard the flight and had asked for extra paper towels before the plane took off from Minneapolis before using the lighter to start the fire. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Fargo. Rojas faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson sentenced him to 74 months and ordered him to pay more than $100,000 in a fine, most of which will go towards compensating Compass Airlines for damage to the bathroom and the cost of emergency accommodation for passengers. Rojas, who was 19 at the time he was arrested, was charged with starting a fire aboard an aircraft and failure to appear. The latter charge, which has been dropped, was filed after he walked away from a Fargo halfway house in September 2008 and fled to Mexico. He was arrested in March 26, 2011 in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico and pleaded guilty in September 2011.