A Northwest Airlines DC-10 landed in Salt Lake City unexpectedly Tuesday amid reports there was a man on board who had doused himself with a flammable liquid and threatened to set himself afire.
The story, however, changed drastically after the plane landed."There's been a screw-up in communication," said Tim Phillips, of the Salt Lake Airport Authority.
Here's what really happened: A West German man, in his mid-20s, had taken a one-gallon gasoline can on board the flight, which departed from San Francisco and was headed to Detroit.
The can's contents, a minute amount of liquid presumed to be gasoline, pressurized and some fumes escaped, causing several passengers to report it to the flight attendants, who notified the captain, said Frank Ratliff, airport operations manager.
Shortly before 4 p.m., the plane landed and the West German tourist was whisked off the aircraft, questioned and then released. The DC-10 left the airport about 6 p.m. The man and his luggage were routed on another flight, Ratliff said.
"His story is that he was touring and his rent-a-car ran out of gas, so he bought the gas can," said Ratliff. "I guess he just wanted to keep the can. He was very apologetic to the crew for having to stop in here."
Ratliff said airport officials are still trying to determine where the story got sensationalized in its relay from the plane to the tower to the airport operations office.
A bigger concern for the FAA, though, is how the tourist was able to get the gasoline can on the plane.