Cathay Pacific

Doubts over 'hero' of plane attack

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2012, 12:00am

An air passenger has been hailed a national hero in Mongolia for preventing what was claimed to be a terrorist attack on a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.

Zayabaatar Buyannemekh was given a bravery award by the Mongolian government after saying he helped wrestle to the floor a Philippines 'terrorist' who threatened passengers and cabin crew with a knife before trying to open one of the emergency doors.

The drama is alleged to have taken place on flight CX712 from Bangkok on Monday.

But while the incident received maximum publicity in Mongolia, the airline and police in Hong Kong played it down.

A Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said although an assault did take place on the flight, 'there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest it involved a terrorist attack'.

Hong Kong police said a report was made to them at 7.30pm on Monday about an expatriate man suspected of attacking two flight attendants on the plane.

Officers arrested a 52-year-old man and charged him with disorderly conduct under the Aviation Security Ordinance.

The suspect appeared in court earlier this week and was remanded to Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre. He will appear in Tsuen Wan Court again on May 2. But a police spokesman said: 'No one attempted to open the emergency exit of the plane during the incident.'

Nevertheless, Buyannemekh arrived home to a hero's welcome, greeted by officials and media.

On Wednesday he was presented an award for bravery by Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold, who praised Buyannemekh for foiling a terrorist attempt and saving the lives of many people.

The China News Service also reported how a Mongolian man helped to thwart a terrorist attack on a Cathay Pacific flight.

Monstame, Mongolia's national news agency, said the Filipino threatened other passengers with a knife and tried to 'crash the plane by forcing open the emergency exit door'.

It said Buyannemekh waded in and wrestled the man to the floor.

The Cathay Pacific spokeswoman confirmed that as the plane neared Chek Lap Kok, a member of the crew was attacked by a passenger.

He was restrained by other crew members with the help of two passengers, but the spokeswoman said there was no terror threat.

'When the flight landed, the police detained the concerned passenger for investigation,' the spokeswoman said. 'One of the cabin crew was slightly injured during the incident and she was sent to hospital for examination. She was later discharged on the same day.' The two passengers who offered assistance were also slightly injured but they did not need to go to hospital, she said. All other passengers on the flight were unharmed.

Buyannemekh was quoted in Monstame as saying he saw a passenger struggling with three flight attendants and trying to open the door of the plane. He tackled him and grabbed him round the neck. The attacker was then handcuffed.

Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union urged the airline to take urgent measures to enhance the safety and protection of cabin crew.

It also criticised the airline for not making details of the incident known to staff and the public sooner.