Stairs used to storm plane were too short

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Passengers have restrained a man who allegedly tried to hijack a Malaysia Airlines flight from Melbourne.

Sri Lankan man Manodh Monaragala Marks, 25, has been charged with threatening to destroy, kill or injure anyone on an aircraft and recklessly threatening to detonate an explosive device. Picture: AAP/David Crosling

POLICE at the scene of the Malaysia Airlines bomb scare were forced to change plans to storm the aircraft after stairs that were brought in to reach the plane’s door were found to be too short.

Flight MH128 to Kuala Lumpur was forced to return to Melbourne shortly after takeoff when a passenger tried to enter the cockpit, claiming he had a bomb.

Victorian police have been criticised for the amount of time it took for officers to respond to the incident, with passengers trapped on the plane for 90 minutes before police came on board.

The Australian has now revealed motorised stairs requested by police to reach the aircraft were too short.

“The door chosen … was the most rear door away from the (suspected) device, however, the operator of the stairs indicated that they would not reach that door height,” Victoria Police media officer Melissa Seach told the newspaper.

Heavily-armed police board flight MH128 to arrest a restrained passenger who claimed to have a bomb. Picture: AFP/Andrew Leoncelli

Heavily-armed police board flight MH128 to arrest a restrained passenger who claimed to have a bomb. Picture: AFP/Andrew LeoncelliSource:AFP

“It was subsequently redirected to the next door along. The time taken to redirect towards the newly chosen door took another 90 seconds at the most.”

Last week Victorian Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton was forced to defend the police response time, saying the Special Operations Group police did everything they could to evacuate the 337 passengers and ensure there were no explosives on board.

The operation was initially treated as a counter-terror incident, he said.

Passengers on the tarmac after Malaysia Airlines flight was turned back to Melbourne Airport shortly after takeoff following the incident. Picture: Dan Toner

Passengers on the tarmac after Malaysia Airlines flight was turned back to Melbourne Airport shortly after takeoff following the incident. Picture: Dan TonerSource:News Corp Australia

“It’s not just a case of bursting into the plane; in those scenarios, there’s a whole range of things that have to be taken into consideration to keep passengers as safe as possible, especially in that sort of terrorism, as it was then,” Mr Ashton told 3AW.

“We know we had one person who had been restrained by passengers and crew, but what we don’t know is who potentially else may have been involved, are there other devices on the plane, is there any threat around detonation, or electronic detonation.

“These are the sort of risks you’ve then got to way up.”

Sri Lankan man Manodh Monaragala Marks, 25, has been charged with threatening to destroy, kill or injure anyone on an aircraft and recklessly threatening to detonate an explosive device. Picture: AAP/David Crosling

Sri Lankan man Manodh Monaragala Marks, 25, has been charged with threatening to destroy, kill or injure anyone on an aircraft and recklessly threatening to detonate an explosive device. Picture: AAP/David CroslingSource:AAP

A dramatic audio recording captured the moment the pilot of the Malaysia Airlines flight called for help after a man claimed to have a bomb.

“We have a passenger trying to enter the cockpit,” the pilot tells air traffic control.

“He is claiming to have an explosive device.

“He tried to enter the cockpit.

“He has been overpowered by passengers, however, we’d like to land and have the device checked out.”

Sri Lankan national Manodh Monaragala Marks, 25, has been charged by the Australian Federal Police with threatening to destroy, kill or injure anyone on an aircraft and recklessly threatening to detonate an explosive device.

The device he claimed to be a bomb was found to be a music ­player.

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Alexandra Laverro

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