Passengers ran screaming through Cairns airport, dropping their baggage in a desperate bid to dodge a South Korean man who had doused himself in petrol and was demanding to speak to the chief executive of Jetstar.
The Korean had missed his flight and lost his luggage. To make his frustration clear, he emptied five litres of petrol over himself and waved a cigarette lighter around, sparking mass panic at the airport. The ensuing pandemonium on Friday evening 10 July 2015 saw the domestic airport evacuated, affecting 2000 people and delaying 12 flights.
The Korean was later identified in Cairns District Court as Hanback Chae, 28. He pleaded guilty last week to disrupting services and endangering people’s safety at an airport, offences under the Crimes (Aviation) Act carrying a maximum sentence of 14 years.
The court heard that all Chae’s possessions had been stolen at the end of his “holiday of a lifetime”, making him angry.
“I was angry at the big company, not persons or people, I love persons, I love people,” he told police in an interview.
After missing an earlier flight, Chae bought petrol from a service station and returned to the airport, determined to speak with Jetstar’s chief executive.
Defence barrister Michael Dalton conceded that Chae’s actions were “stupid and ill-conceived” but were “an overly dramatic protest” against Jetstar which got out of control, ABC News reported.
There was no intention to hurt other people.
The court heard Chae was a “gentle soul” and his actions were wildly out of character.
The court viewed dramatic CCTV footage of passengers fleeing in terror.
“People were falling over, screaming, running through the barriers and baggage was abandoned,” Commonwealth prosecutor Kate Milbourne told the court.
“The security screening point and airside areas were breached as people, running in fear to escape the threat, were unable to be stopped.”
Chae was remanded in custody until his sentencing hearing resumes this Friday, 25 September 2015. The judge said the case was “very unusual” and he needed time to consider it.
Written by Peter Needham