Terrified passengers jumped from a Virgin Airline plane at an Australian airport after a threatening note was found on board.
According to AAP, passengers were told to leave their luggage and jump about 1.2 metres from the exits onto the tarmac.
The reported bomb threat, which turned out to be a hoax, was found in the bathroom just a day after a deadly terrorist siege in Melbourne.
“Nothing was found, there was no actual threat to anybody, just a note, so there was nothing in it,” a police spokeswoman told Reuters.
Police said the 68-passenger turboprop plane with 42 passengers on board on a domestic flight was evacuated at the airport in Albury, in southern New South Wales.
A man was arrested. A passenger told the Australian Associated Press he heard someone shout: “Leave your luggage. Get out and run, run, run.”
“Police and emergency services attended Albury airport after receiving information that a note was located in the toilet area,” New South Wales state police spokeswoman Emily Waters said.
“All passengers disembarked and a man was arrested within five minutes,” Waters said, declining to provide further details.
She did not say what was written on the note although News Corp Australia reports it suggested there was a bomb on board. Mirror quoted Virgin Australia as saying that police met the plane on its arrival “due to a security incident on board”.
It could not immediately confirm how many passengers were on board. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said police were treating a deadly siege in the southern city of Melbourne as an “act of terrorism” after a claim by the Islamic State group that one of its fighters was the gunman responsible.
Meanwhile, a 30-year-old man who was among the 42 passengers on the flight was arrested on the tarmac and taken to Albury Police Station.
He was later charged with sending a document threatening death or grievous bodily harm and giving false information. The man was released on bail to appear in Albury Local Court on July 4. AAP understands the note was just one word and suggested possible danger on board.
The arrested passenger was said to be calm throughout the flight. He read a novel and went to the bathroom once. Local police congratulated cabin crew and passengers for the swift evacuation.
“The plane landed at 9.35am and within five minutes we had the plane and the occupants secure and safe,” Albury commander Superintendent Evan Quarmby told reporters.
“All of the occupants of the aeroplane were evacuated safely, very efficiently and should all be congratulated on the assistance they’ve given to police this morning.”
It was initially reported the doors of the plane were “ripped off” by authorities but Virgin later clarified they were opened from the inside, likely by cabin crew.
Sydney retiree Wendy Willett said a hostess shouted: “Evacuate, evacuate. Leave all your belongings, jump out the window.” Another passenger told AAP he heard cabin crew saying: “Leave your luggage. Get out and run, run, run.”
A Virgin spokeswoman said crew denied saying that, however. She suggested a passenger caught up in the commotion may have yelled out “run, run, run”.
Michelle McNamara, who works for a car hire company in the airport terminal, said police, firefighters and ambulance crews closed off half the terminal during the operation.
“It’s normally quiet. It’s Albury Airport,” she said. “It’s a bit concerning. With all that’s happening in the world, it makes you think the worst.”
The Albury incident comes a week after a mentally ill man threatened to blow up a Malaysia Airlines flight after it left Melbourne Airport.
Terrified passengers waited 90 minutes to be evacuated from the plane after it landed back at Tullamarine. They didn’t know at the time the bomb threat was a hoax
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