Cathay Pacific

Mongolian not the hero after all

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2012, 12:00am

A Mongolian man may not be the national hero he was hailed for foiling a 'terrorist attack' on a Cathay Pacific flight, after an alternative account emerged of the mid-air heroics.

Zayabaatar Buyannemekh was given an award for bravery by Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold for holding a Filipino 'terrorist' in a headlock after he supposedly threatened passengers and cabin crew with a knife and tried to force an emergency door open in mid-flight.

But a fellow passenger on the Bangkok-Hong Kong flight, South Korean Yi Chong-min, says it was he, not the Mongolian, who was largely responsible for averting the danger on Monday - and that the Filipino man was unarmed, did not try to open the door and was no terrorist.

'He [Buyannemekh] was on a connecting flight to Mongolia and gave me his business card. He said any time I'm in Ulan Bator to look him up,' laughed Yi, 34. 'Next thing I know he's a national hero for preventing a terrorist attack and he's meeting the Mongolian prime minister. It's hilarious. He has clearly embellished what happened but you've got to love it. It's made for a great story for Mongolia.'

Yi, a US citizen who has been working in the investment sector in Hong Kong for the past four years, was sitting in business class when he intervened as the Filipino became aggressive.

'I got there first and got the hysterical man in a choke hold - it wasn't the Mongolian guy who did this,' Yi said. 'He was behind me and grabbed the man's hands. We both wrestled him to the ground and I kept the choke hold on him.'

And Yi, who says he has no problem with Buyannemekh despite his unlikely acclaim, says he is not pitching for any reward. 'Absolutely not, it's fine. I'm not looking for an award for bravery from the chief executive.'

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. Police arrested a 52-year-old Filipino man and charged him with disorderly conduct under the Aviation Security Ordinance. The suspect appeared in court last week and was remanded to the Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre. He will appear in Tsuen Wan Court on May 2.

Both Cathay Pacific and the police played the incident down, although Buyannemekh was quoted as saying that he saw a passenger struggling with three flight attendants and trying to open a door of the plane. He tackled him and grabbed him round the neck.

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