"I didn't think. I just went over there to try to save the plane," Jasper Schuringa of Amsterdam told CNN.
As passengers on Flight 253 screamed "fire, fire" on Friday, Schuringa said he figured the suspect was "trying to blow up the plane."
He said he jumped over seats and crossed the aisle before extinguishing the fire with his hands and searching Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for explosives.
"When you hear a pop on a plane, you're awake," Schuringa said.
He said Abdulmutallab didn't struggle and was silent as other passengers and crew responded.
"We took him to first class . . . stripped him and contained him to make sure he had no more weapons, no more bombs," said Schuringa, whose right wrist and fingertips were bandaged to protect burns. He spoke to CNN from Miami, where he was on vacation.
A White House official said it is believed the incident was an attempted act of terrorism and stricter security measures were quickly imposed on airline travel.
Schuringa said until the pop, there was nothing about Abdulmutallab's behavior that stirred suspicions on the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight.
Schuringa, who the New York Daily News said is a video director and producer, praised flight attendants and fellow passengers - "they're also heroes."
A Facebook page for Schuringa had dozens of comments from admirers Saturday. An online group for Delta Northwest flight attendants left a message praising him "for his decisive and heroic action." Another wrote: "With more people like him, our world would be a safe place, anywhere, anytime."
With staff reports