Malaysia Airlines Plane Turns Back After Bomb Threat by Man Attempting Cockpit Break-In

Malaysia Airlines
Malaysia Airlines aircraft taxis on the runway at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang outside Kuala Lumpur on May 13, 2014. Samsul Said/Reuters

A Malaysian Airlines plane was forced to return to Melbourne, Australia, after a man attempted to break into the cockpit, claiming he had a bomb.

Flight MH128 departed from Melbourne for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at 11:11 p.m. local time on Wednesday and was about 20 minutes into the journey when the incident occurred, the airline said.

"I just heard shouting. There was a bloke saying he wanted to speak to the captain, and cabin crew were trying to calm him down. Then they shouted for help, as it was getting more heated," passenger Dan Toner, who was sitting close to the cockpit, tells Newsweek.

"Suddenly someone said, 'What's that?' and the man sprinted to the back of the plane. Crew were visibly shocked, and one of them shouted for restraints and chased after him, managing to restrain him at the back of the plane.

"Then a member of cabin crew came back carrying a gray dome with prongs on it, about the size of a football, asking if it was a bomb," Toner adds.

Around 11 passengers helped tackle the man at the back of the plane, and the aircraft immediately turned back for Melbourne Airport after the man had been restrained, according to multiple media reports. It landed at 11:41 p.m.

"The plane had a rapid landing, parked away from the terminal for an hour until armed police ran up to the cockpit screaming, 'Police, get your heads down! Heads down now!' Then we were evacuated off the plane," Toner tells Newsweek.

The passengers made it safely onto the tarmac, where they were given blankets as the emergency services continued working.

The airport was put on lockdown following the incident, and there has been no word yet as to when flights to or from Melbourne Airport will resume.

Malaysia's deputy transport minister, Abdul Aziz bin Kaprawi, told Agence France-Presse: "It is not a hijack. One disruptive passenger tried to enter the plane's cockpit.

"The passenger, a Sri Lankan national, claimed to have a bomb. But it was not a bomb but a powerbank," he added.

Malaysian Airlines has suffered a number of high-profile incidents over the past three years, with the disappearance of MH370 in 2014 resulting in the presumed deaths of 239 people on board and prompting an international search for the never-recovered plane.

And just months later, the airline saw flight MH17 shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft.

The company released a statement about the Melbourne incident, saying: "Malaysia Airlines would like to stress that at no point was the aircraft 'hijacked.'"

It added: "Following the incident on MH128, the disruptive passenger has been apprehended by airport security. Malaysia Airlines together with the Australian authorities will be investigating the incident.

"Safety and security are of utmost priority to Malaysia Airlines. The airline wishes to apologise for the inconvenience caused.

"Passengers have safely disembarked the aircraft and will be screened by Australian authorities. They will be accommodated at hotels and offered on the next available flight or on other carriers."