A group of passengers tackled and restrained the man as he tried to enter the cockpit of a Malaysia Airlines plane. The suspect threatened to "blow the plane up" with what appeared to be a Bluetooth speaker.
The Kuala Lumpur-bound flight was diverted back to Melbourne over a bomb scare, after one of the passengers attacked a female flight attendant, police said on Thursday. The man, a 25-year-old Sri Lankan national, also attempted to enter the cockpit shortly after take off.
One of the passengers aboard the plane, Andrew Leoncelli, said that the attacker was extremely "agitated."
"He was saying: 'I'm going to the blow the f-ing plane up, I'm going to blow the plane up,'" Leoncelli told Australian broadcaster ABC. "Two or three brave, young Aussies have taken him on and got him to the ground."
The passengers and crew managed to tie the man's hands with seatbelts and subdue him until the plane landed back in Melbourne. The police then entered the aircraft and arrested the suspect. The authorities believe the incident to be unrelated to Islamist terrorism.
Speaker instead of bomb
According to the police, the passenger bought his plane ticket only hours after being released from a psychiatric hospital in Melbourne. Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said that the suspect carried "amplifier-type instrument" which passengers described as a Bluetooth speaker or a music player.
"We believe that the actions of the passengers and crew were quite heroic," said Police Superintendent Tony Langdon. The police found no terror links.
The premier of the state of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, also commented on the incident, urging officials not to ban mentally ill passengers from flying.
"We don't want to be stigmatizing any more than mental illness is already stigmatized," he said.
The man now faces charges related to endangering a plane and making a false threat, which can carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Malaysia Airlines is still recovering from the two tragedies involving their planes in 2014, when one airliner was shot down with an anti-aircraft missile over Ukraine and the other disappeared above the Indian Ocean.
dj/msh (AP, Reuters)