By Dee McLachlan
Does this latest episode on MH128 prove that you cannot rely on the police any longer? Do we need to understand that in a terror-type situation, we need to rely on ourselves?
In the siege at the Lindt cafe, it is now confirmed that the police were waiting outside for 16 hours. They did not even act when the shot was fired by Monis (apparently a warning shot, aimed at the ceiling). It is only after more waiting that Tori was shot.
Imagine if the negotiators had said to the hostages that day, “We can only come in when he shoots someone”? The hostages might have made a plan to disable Monis — but they were relying on police to save them.
In the case of the Bourke Street massacre, undercover police cars had been following Gargarsoulas for some time without trying to block him off.
On Wednesday night, until early Thursday morning, passengers had to wait almost 90 minutes for Victoria Police to board the aircraft. This is the timeline that has been reported (times are approximate):
11.25 pm: MH 128, with 200 aboard, takes off.
11.28 pm: A man gets out of his seat, removes an item from overhead luggage — then brandished a device, which he claims is a bomb, approaches the cockpit — threatening to blow up the flight.
Former AFL player Andrew Leoncelli and others tackle the man.
11.29 pm: The plane turns back to Melbourne.
11.37 pm: Police receive the call, and the AFP Operations Coordination Centre is advised. Then Melbourne AFP Aviation is advised one minute later. The AFP notifies Victoria Police.
11.43 pm: Flight MH128 lands safely. The AFP establishes a Police Forward Command post at Melbourne Airport, gate 27.
11.53 pm: Victoria Police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) is notified by the police communications centre.
11.55 pm: Victoria Police general duty officers arrive at the airport.
12.23 am: The Critical Incident Response Team and SOG unit arrive at the airport.
12.25 am: The plane has been on the tarmac for about 45 minutes. The SOG unit does not board.
12.34 am: The AFP officially handover the operational command to Victoria Police.
1.21 am: Heavily armed special forces police storm the Airbus A330 and arrest the man. They establish the device is harmless.
Leigh Sales (7.30 Report) questioned Victoria Police Commissioner, Graham Ashton:
LEIGH SALES: Why were passengers left on the plane for 90 minutes?
GRAHAM ASHTON: Well, passengers were on the plane for about 90 minutes after the plane landed, that’s because the forward commander at the scene went to properly assess the operation in relation to how those people on the plane could be safely taken off. …it might appear 90 minutes might be a long period of time, in fact when you’re weighing up risk factors about what people are on the plane, are there other offenders on the plane, are there possibilities of other explosive devices allegedly on the plane. These are the factors that got to be considered as part of an evacuation process, it’s not just as simple as popping the doors open and getting everyone off straight away. [Why not?]
LEIGH SALES: The Victorian Opposition Leader though said that if there’s a bomb on board of the plane and the plane is full of fuel and there’s 200 people on it, then the evacuation should be done very very quickly?
GRAHAM ASHTON: Well the evacuation was done and it was done safely. We didn’t know, when we were making those assessments, that we weren’t dealing with in fact with a bomb. [Surely all the more reason to evacuate QUICKLY?]
Photograph of Mark Knight’s cartoon
In this video below, the police drag the man off… BEFORE evacuating the passengers.
Do we need to create our own “Action Plan” in these scenarios?
An example of police storming onto a plane is when there was a bomb threat on Sunwing Flight 772 from Toronto to Panama. The troops storm on shouting, repeatedly “Heads down… hands up”. But it sounds like “Hands down, hands up.”