Aviation

“You have to have a crack”: Aussie surfers awarded for bravery after thwarting plane hijacking

Victorian surfers, Troy Joyner and Fabio Contu, were given bravery awards for preventing a hijacking on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH128 in May 2017.

The pair will each receive one of the 38 Australian Bravery Decorations handed out today by Governor-General David Hurley that recognise the courageous acts of 49 people.

On the flight, the hijacker, Manodh Marks, walked towards the cockpit with two black packages with blue flashing lights claiming to have a bomb, according to news.com.au.

Joyner recalled telling Contu that there was an apparent act of terrorism happening right before them.

“I said, ‘Mate, that guy’s got a bomb’,” Joyner told news.

“It was dark. The cabin crew in front of us started to talk in Malaysian. More people were starting to move around.

“I could hear a heap of yelling. They flicked the lights on and I could see he had a singleton with a device under his singlet that stood out, sort of two inches from his stomach.

“He had a remote in his left hand that looked pretty legit. I thought, ‘This guy is pretty serious’.”

Contu found it hard to believe what he was being told.

“Troy tapped me and said, ‘He’s got a bomb’. I was like, ‘You’ve heard him wrong. He’s probably going to the toilet’. He’s like, ‘I know what I heard’,” Joyner recalled.

Marks was stopped next to Joyner’s seat and shouting at flight attendants to go into the cockpit.

This is when Joyner acted. He jumped up and put Marks in a headlock and Contu tackled him around the waist. The pair pinned him to the ground and lifted his singlet.

“Under the shirt, I could feel something,” Contu told news.

“I pulled his shirt up and there’s this big round plastic thing staring at me with wires coming out of it. I put my hand on it and went ‘stuff it.’ I ripped it off him and it didn’t go off. I gave it to a passenger and said to put it at the back of the plane.

“Troy had him choked out. He was out cold so I searched him for a trigger. There was a phone so I took that off him, too. We handcuffed his hands and his feet with cable ties and secured him to the frame of a seat so he couldn’t move.”

The pair thought they were going to die.

“I reckon there was a lot of people that didn’t really know what was going on. A lot of people did nothing,” Contu said.

What spurred his heroism?

“I suppose it comes down to (the questions): Why should they be able to do that? And what are you going to do about it? You have to have a crack. Don’t let them win.”

Joyner felt that same sense of duty as his surfing partner.

“The only thing that made me do it was the fear of dying,” he said.

“There’s no one up there to help you. You either help yourself or let it take its course.”

Marks was sentenced to jail for 9 years with a non-parole period of nine years, which the Victorian Court of Appeal reduced to eight years with a non-parole period of five years.

He will be deported following his sentence.



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