A 27-year-old South Korean man, Hanback Chae was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for disrupting the services at the Cairns International Airport and in doing so endangering, or was likely to endanger, the safety of anyone at the airport by dousing himself in flammable liquid and threatening to set himself alight by waving his hand in the air with a lighter in it.
On 10 July 2015, Chae arrived at Cairns International Airport too late to check-in for his Jetstar flight to Japan.
Chae left the airport and went to a service station where he purchased a plastic fuel container and 5.48 litres of petrol. When he returned to the airport and went to the domestic terminal and demanded to speak with the CEO of Jetstar. His request was refused and he stepped back from the counter, raised the fuel container over his head and poured the petrol it contained over himself. The petrol saturated the accused’s clothing and spilled to the floor creating a large pool of flammable liquid. The accused pulled a cigarette lighter from his pocket. Waving his arms in the air, with the lighter in his hand, the accused demanded to speak with the CEO of Jetstar.
There were approximately 200-300 people in the check-in area. They fled through the doors of the terminal and also towards the screening point, which was breached by people fleeing the area. The airside security zones were also breached by people fleeing the terminal. People were falling over, screaming, running through the barriers and baggage was abandoned. As a result of the incident and the danger the flammable liquid and fumes posed, the domestic terminal building was evacuated.
Australian Federal Police arrived at the scene and arrested the accused. District Court Judge O’Brien took into account that Chae had no prior convictions, the offending was out of character and not considered to be a political stunt or terrorism. It was a personal protest against the airline over a perceived grievance.
On 25 September 2015 Hanback Chae pleaded guilty in the Cairns District Court to the following charge committed on 10 July 2015:
- one count of disrupting the services and endangering safety of anyone at a prescribed airport under section 26(2) of the Crimes (Aviation) Act 1991.
Chae was convicted and imprisoned to a maximum of 18 months to be released after three months upon entering into a recognisance order pursuant to section 20 (1)(b) of the Crimes Act 1914 in the sum of $5,000 and to be of good behaviour for two years. A total of 77 days pre-sentence custody declared as time served.