On Monday night, images emerged of passengers scrambling off a Lion Air plane from Pontianak, West Kalimantan after a joke about a bomb.
According to police, 10 of the 189 passengers were injured in the fiasco, 8 of whom broke bones while jumping off the wing of the plane.
— Gerry Soejatman (@GerryS) May 28, 2018
The prankster was identified as FN, a Papuan student of the Universities Tanjungpura, in Pontianak, West Kalimantan.
What actually happened has been the subject of much confusion. However, according to FN’s attorney, FN got angry when a flight attendant roughly moved his bag with three laptops in it. The bomb joke was in retaliation for her lack of care when handling his bag.
In FN’s version of events, the attendant then scolded him for making a bomb joke. She told him that such comments were not allowed. FN then apologized and bowed his head. He was then called to the plane’s gate so his bag could be searched, where they found no bomb nor anything suspicious. He was then told to return to his seat.
But the panic was just beginning.
The situation remained tense, though everyone was still in their seats awaiting take off. Then a panicked request over the PA system called for everyone to exit through the main door.
The fear translated into passengers to the rear using the emergency exit, which led to the scenes of people on the wing of the plane.
This is corroborated by a video that emerged with the Lion Air flight attendants and FN talking to investigators:
The flight attendant claimed:
“My Captain came out and then said let’s hurry, let’s hurry.”
“(I said) ‘come on ladies and gentleman, quickly get out,’ but without (saying) ‘stay calm.’ Finally, the passengers in the back all stood up and all started panicking. There were some passengers who opened the emergency window.”
Police haven’t official charged FN at the time of writing, but a sentence of falsely claiming a bomb on an Indonesian flight can carry a sentence of up to 8 years.
There has a been a recent surge in these “bomb hoaxes.”
This is the second time in a week that a Lion Air flight has been delayed after a flight from Jakarta to KL was delayed after another joke falsely claiming there was a bomb on board.
And the week before, two senior party officials joked they were carrying a bomb “because they didn’t realise it was illegal” – before the flight was grounded.
After the Surabaya bombings two weeks ago, tensions around these matters are higher than they’ve been in years. These “bomb hoaxes” are coming at a time when people are particularly on edge. No doubt they are as disruptive as they are in bad taste.
But the question is: if jokes can cause such panic, have the terrorists already won?