Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Passengers Waited in Fear; Police Defend Response to Bomb Threat on Plane in Melbourne

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Passengers Waited in Fear; Police Defend Response to Bomb Threat on Plane in Melbourne

Article excerpt

CHIEF Commissioner Grahan Ashton has rejected criticism of the police response to a bomb threat on a plane at Melbourne Airport after passengers were forced to wait 90 minutes for officers to board.

A 25-year-old man, who is in police custody, lay in an aisle clinging to a device he claimed to be a bomb while being restrained by passengers as flight crew awaited police assistance.

A group of passengers has been praised as heroes by police after they worked with flight crew to restrain the man. However, they have reported having to wait more than an hour between the time the plane was landed and the arrival of heavily armed officers into the aircraft.

Mr Ashton told reporters yesterday: "I have seen commentary this morning about the time it took to take passengers off the plane. The main thing we have to focus on in that scenario is safely getting all passengers and crew off the flight.

"For us we have to make sure all possibilities are taken into account... the possibility there are co-offenders or if there was an explosive device or the possibility of another explosive device.

"Once we were satisfied we were dealing with one offender and a device that was increasingly looking unlikely to be an explosive device, the decision was made to get the passengers off and that was done. I think the entire time was around 90 minutes.

"I certainly appreciate when you are on a plane in that situation one minute can seem like an hour ... (but) I'm satisfied with our response."

The arrested man was a Sri Lankan national in Australia on a student visa, Mr Ashton said, and had been treated at Monash Medical Centre on Wednesday for mental health issues.

Mr Ashton said the Special Operations Group was on the scene within 20 minutes of the initial call.

One of the men who helped control the situation said everyone on the plane was "highly agitated" and described the experience as "frustrating". …

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