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BONFIRE OF THE INANITIES: Woman Sets Fire To Blankets Aboard Flight To Puerto Rico


SAN JUAN — A passenger on a flight from New York to Puerto Rico is in FBI custody today after allegedly setting two blankets and a control panel on fire during a flight.

Idializ Gomez boarded a JetBlue flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at about 12:43 a.m. Tuesday, the FBI said.

During the flight, Gomez used a lighter to ignite the blankets, damaging a portion of the in-flight control panel of an adjoining seat, the agency said on Wednesday.

She was charged with two counts related to destruction of an airplane after landing in the southern Puerto Rico town of Ponce aboard the flight that originated from New York City.

During the flight she used a lighter ‘to ignite and successfully damage two blankets and a portion of the in-flight control panel of the seat next to hers,’ the FBI said.

After the plane landed at Mercedita International Airport in Ponce at approximately 4:31 a.m., she was detained by Puerto Rican police before being placed in FBI custody.

The FBI said in a statement that Gomez had been charged with the destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities in violation of Title 18 USC Section 32(a)(1).

The agency said that the incident occurred Tuesday before dawn. It’s unclear the motive behind the attempted fires.

If convicted of all charges, Gomez could face up to 25 years in prison. It was not immediately clear if she had an attorney.

JetBlue Airways told the Virgin Islands Free Press in a statement that the incident is under investigation and that they are cooperating with law enforcement.

U.S. federal regulators allow passengers to carry one lighter in their carry-on baggage.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth Erbe.

It is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The public is reminded a criminal complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt.

“A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty,” Erbe said. “The U.S. government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”


WHERE BONFIRE FLIGHT LANDED: Aeropuerto Mercedita in Ponce.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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