MH128: How Australia surfers took down plane hijacker on Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur flight

Victorian surfers who took down a man threatening to blow up a plane as it flew over Melbourne have revealed what they said to him when he regained consciousness.

On the floor of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH128 lies a man who moments earlier tried to enter the cockpit of the commercial passenger jet high above Melbourne armed with what he told passengers and crew was a bomb.

Manodh Marks has his hands and feet tied together with cable ties. The device — a black circular package with wires running out of it — has been stripped from him and thrown towards the back of the plane.

Marks is unconscious courtesy of a chokehold carried out by Victorian surfer-turned hero, Troy Joyner.

Asked how hard he gripped the terrorist’s neck, Joyner tells me he used all his strength.

“I went as hard as I could. When you think you’re going to die, there’s no time for mucking around.”

Joyner, 38, and his surfing mate Fabio Contu, 40, are on their way to Indonesia to surf what they refer to as “the swell of the decade” — waves so good they booked tickets just to experience them first hand.

But their plans have been interrupted by a man determined to take the plane down. The plane has leveled out and made a return to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport, but it will be 90 long minutes before police arrive.

As Marks wakes up, he begs for mercy.

“I’m a drug addict, I’ve just come out of rehab,” he tells Contu. The surfer’s response?

“I told him, ‘Shut the f*** up, you’ve just tried to take the plane down.”

Joyner and Contu spoke to on Tuesday as they were recognized with bravery awards for the role they played as the aircraft took off shortly after 11pm on May 31, 2017.

They say the incident is still fresh in their memories.

“We sat down, I put a movie on,” Contu says. “Troy did the same thing. We’d just taken off.”

Joyner, in the aisle seat on the left hand side of the plane, recalls that the headphones were not working on the right ear.

It’s why he was able to hear what happened next so clearly.

“Everyone was sort of sitting there relaxing, watching movies,” he says. “As I turned around, (Marks) ran past me and said, ‘I’ve got a bomb’.”

The 26-year-old was holding two black packages with blue flashing lights on them. What passengers and crew didn’t know at the time is that they were bluetooth speakers.

Joyner told Contu — a former military veteran with experience disarming explosives — that there was an apparent act of terrorism unfolding right before them.

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

“It was dark. The cabin crew in front of us starting 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 singlet on 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’.”

Initially, Contu didn’t believe his friend.

“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’.”

The pair who grew up surfing together, from Cape Patterson and San Remo respectively, were seated in the last third of the plane.

Marks was demanding to get into the cockpit but flight attendants managed to force him back. He stopped right next to Joyner’s seat.

Joyner jumped up and put Marks in a headlock. Contu followed by tackling him around the waist. When they had him on the ground, Contu lifted Marks’ singlet.

“Under the shirt I could feel something,” he says.

“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.”

They both say they 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 says.

Why did he decide to act? “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 tells a similar story.

“The only thing that made me do it was the fear of dying,” he says. “There’s no one up there to help you. You either help yourself or let it take its course.”

Governor-General David Hurley is today handing out 38 Australian Bravery Decorations to recognize the courageous acts of 49 people, including the two surfers.

The pair say they would do it all again. It didn’t take them long to get back in the air. There were waves to catch.

“We got on a flight the next day,” Joyner says. “Got the waves of our life.”

Marks was jailed for 12 years with a non-parole period of nine years. The Victorian Court of Appeal reduced his sentence to eight years with a non-parole period of five years.

He will be deported at the conclusion of his sentence.

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