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Police respond to MH128 evacuation delay allegations

June 1, 2017 7:31 AM
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After returning to Melbourne, the plane was on the Tullamarine tarmac for more than an hour before heavily armed police went on board and took the man into custody.

"We were told 10 minutes, but it was over an hour. But everybody was really calm, really calm," she said.

"I thought it was really disappointing, only because we weren't told. We weren't updated all the time."

"We could see them [police] all outside, but they weren't coming on the plane, and nobody knew why."

Victorian chief police commissioner Graeme Ashton said it was prudent for the police to take the time they did.

"We have to make sure that all possibilities are taken into account, including the possibilities of co-offenders," Commisioner Ashton said.

"Or if there was an explosive device, the possibility of there being other explosive devices that a sudden removal of the passengers could cause an issue with."

"So, once we were satisfied that dealing with one offender and one device that was increasingly looking unlikely to be an explosive device, the decision was made to get the passengers off, and then that was done."

Al Jazeera journalist Drew Ambrose was among those on board, said he could sympathise with way the police assessed the situation.

"I completely understand that point of view, and I think the authorities did the right thing, because they didn't know," he said.

"Even, I think, the people on the plane didn't know if he was working with somebody else, because, you know, his behaviour was so manic."

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he has been advised the proper protocols were followed.

"Well, there are standard protocols in place and the advice I have is that they were all followed and they were followed diligently, they were followed carefully in the interests of the safety of every single passenger."

The incident occurred less than 30 minutes after the Malaysia Airlines plane took off on a late-night flight to Kuala Lumpur.

The plane had been in the air for less than half an hour when passenger Serena Brown said she heard a commotion behind her seat.

"I could hear a kerfuffle behind me, although I couldn't see it - there was a wall separating us, and then the next minute, a guy ran up the other side, saying, 'I've got a bomb,' and people were screaming... Then he was jumped on," she said.

Inside the cockpit, the captain of flight MH128 reported the incident to air-traffic control.

"We have a passenger claiming to have an explosive device. He tried to enter the cockpit and has been overpowered by passengers, however we'd like to land and have the device checked out."

Drew Ambrose, the journalist and passenger, said the device the man was carrying looked unusual.

"It kind of looked like a metallic drone. It looked really odd and you know my instant kind of 'two and two' when putting a problem together was maybe this was navigation equipment or some of the other things that, you know, they warn against people bringing on board the plane," Mr Ambrose said.

"I thought maybe he thought he could use this equipment to disrupt the cockpit or something, I don't know, but it was that object that kind of made the situation quite unusual, and it kind of elevated the situation."


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