(CNN) -- Syed Jafry was preparing for his plane to land in Detroit, Michigan, after a long flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, when he heard a noise that startled him.
"There was a little bit of light, a little bit of -- kind of flamish light and there was fire," Jafry told CNN. "And people began to panic."
For a couple of seconds on Northwest Flight 253, nobody knew what was going on, he said.
That pop, officials say, came from a Nigerian man who ignited a small explosive device as the flight descended into the Detroit, Michigan, area. The White House described the incident as an attempted terrorist attack. The suspect was eventually subdued by passengers and crew.
As the commotion began, passengers didn't know what to think.
Jafry said he thought the man looked to be in his 20s.
Passenger Elias Fawaz told WDIV that the detonation sounded "like a balloon being popped" and said he could smell smoke.
That's when he saw a struggle in the cabin.
"We heard, 'What are you doing?' 'What are you doing?' " Fawaz told WDIV.
Within seconds a young man on the flight took matters into his own hands, according to Jafry and other passengers who spoke to CNN affiliate WXYZ-TV.
A man, sitting three or four rows behind Jafry jumped over a group of seats, tackled the suspect and put him in a headlock.
"He handled him pretty good, I think," Jafry said.
Jafry said other passengers and crew members then helped subdue the man and put out flames after the suspect's pants appeared to catch fire.
"Everybody was rushing towards that area and tried to get water," Jafry said, adding that people rushed the man with blankets and a fire extinguisher.
"They put out the fire, brought him up front where they stripped him down to make sure that he had nothing else," passenger Melinda Dennis told CNN affiliate WDIV.
Other passengers told WXYZ the injured suspect was put in the first row of first class.
"He appeared to be more stunned and surprised with the whole act," Jafry said of the suspect after he was subdued.
Passengers, including Jafry, said they could see the suspect was burned on different parts of his body, but he didn't seem to say much or act as if he were in pain.
Jafry said soon after the suspect was moved to the front of the plane, the crew and pilot told passengers the incident was under control.
"And we were on the ground, I think between 10 to 20 minutes after the incident," Jafry said.
Jafry and other passengers were screened again and questioned for about four to five hours before finally being able to meet their friends and family, or reach connecting flights.