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Woodbury man charged with starting fire on Northwest flight

A 19-year-old man faces federal charges for a bathroom fire on a jet forced to make an emergency landing May 7 at Fargo's Hector International Airport.

Eder H. Rojas, of Woodbury, faces a charge of setting a fire to and damaging an aircraft, according to a news release issued Thursday by the FBI in Minneapolis.

"Outstanding cooperation and an excellent investigative effort between several federal and local agencies resulted in federal charges being filed today," FBI Special Agent Ralph Boelter said in the release.

Rojas, who was arrested Wednesday night in Minneapolis, is scheduled to make his initial appearance Thursday in a Minneapolis federal courtroom. The U.S. Attorney's Office in North Dakota will be prosecuting the case after the initial appearance and filed charges in Fargo.

The FBI began investigating the May 7 fire after a Compass Airlines jet, which had left Minneapolis-St. Paul for Regina, Sask., was forced to land in Fargo.

Compass Airlines is a subsidiary of Northwest.

None of the 69 passengers aboard the 76-seat Embraer 175 place were injured and it landed at 10:44 p.m. without incident.

Passengers were held in Hector Airport's departure lounge and interviewed by the FBI and Fargo police, Shawn Dobberstein, executive director of the airport, said afterward.

After being interviewed, passengers were allowed to reclaim their luggage. Some stayed at the airport, while others went to hotels or restaurants and were provided shuttle service back to the airport, Dobberstein said.

The passengers flew back to Minneapolis on May 8 to be rebooked on flights to Regina, he said.

Passengers said it was a scary ordeal and credited two flight attendants with quickly extinguishing the fire and getting passengers into the first-class section of the plane, where the smoke wasn't as heavy.