Soft-drink 'bomb' a fizzer as police admit flight crew misread label

Soft-drink 'bomb' a fizzer

The misinterpretation of foreign lettering on a soft drink can sparked the emergency landing of an Air Mauritius plane yesterday, police reveal.

An investigation into the soft-drink saga that sparked an emergency landing of an Air Mauritius airliner at Melbourne Airport yesterday has produced another hiccup with police backtracking on exactly what was found on the plane.

Police yesterday said the word ‘‘bomb’’ was written on a piece of paper taped with masking tape to a drink can, prompting the pilot to turn around over Mount Gambier and return to Melbourne.

‘It has been determined that no offence has been detected due to an initial misinterpretation of foreign lettering on the print of the can.

But then today, a Victoria Police spokeswoman said the word was printed on the can itself and not handwritten.

She said no offence had been detected ‘‘due to an initial misinterpretation of foreign lettering on the print of the can’’.

But the story refuses to fizzle out with Victoria Police this afternoon releasing another statement, in which they said the wording had been written.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed this meant that it has been hand-written on a piece of paper that was stuck to the can.

Police said investigators did not believe the can had come from Australia and was loaded on to the plane overseas.

If this is the case, no offence has been committed under Australian law but detectives are at this stage continuing to investigate and the can has undergone further forensic examinations.

Police have already confirmed that no explosives were found in the can or on the plane and no one has been arrested in relation to the incident.

Airline staff discovered the can of drink at the rear of the plane about an hour into flight MK943’s journey to Mauritius yesterday afternoon.

The plane was carrying 181 passengers and 13 crew when it landed safely at 2.55pm yesterday and taxied to a remote part of the airfield.

Yesterday afternoon, Victoria Police Superintendent Peter O’Neill said the threat "was enough to cause the captain to take the action to abort the flight".

The plane was met by a full response from airport firefighters, with 13 appliance trucks at the end of the runway.

Passengers were seen leaving the aircraft about half an hour after it landed and were taken to a secure part of the international terminal where police questioned them.

"We couldn’t discount anybody on the plane until we were satisfied that they weren’t involved," Superintendent O’Neill said.

Air Mauritius vice-president and spokesman Donald Payen, speaking from Mauritius last night, said he was awaiting a decision from authorities on the "serviceability" of the aircraft.

"Following the discovery of a suspicious item on board, the captain elected to return to Tullamarine and landed safely," Mr Payen said.

"The Australian authorities have now taken over the aircraft and passengers disembarked safely and have been transferred to the terminal building.

"We don’t have any further indication on when the authorities will release the aircraft."

Police said no threats had been received in relation to the object.

Fouad Elias, of Doncaster, said the pilot had told passengers something "weird" had been found in the plane and he was returning to Melbourne.

His wife, Rita, said police questioned all passengers. "They asked if we knew what happened and they asked us did we see anybody [acting suspiciously]."

One person said passengers had been stuck on the plane for an extra 45 minutes after it was parked away from the main terminal because mobile stairs sent to the site were the wrong height.