Dutch cyclist Maarten de Jonge is one very lucky man, having cheated death twice in the past four months.
De Jonge was scheduled to fly aboard Flight MH370, which vanished without a trace in March, and he also had a ticket for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was downed by a missile this week over the Ukraine – but he changed his travel arrangements at the last minute in both cases.
On Friday, the 29-year-old professional athlete issued a statement on his official site confirming that he was supposed to take the doomed MH17 flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur Thursday, but he pushed back his departure by several days.
‘What has happened is terrible, so many victims, that’s a horrible thing,’ de Jonge wrote in a statement translated from Dutch.
De Jonge told the Netherlands station RTV Oost that despite his second brush with death, he plans to take another Malaysia Airlines plane this week and has no concerns for his safety.
‘I have been lucky twice, that’s the third time as well,’ de Jonge reportedly said.
De Jonge, who is part of the Terengganu Cycling Team based in Malaysia, had booked a seat on Flight MH17, planning to return to Kuala Lumpur after taking part in national championships in his native Holland earlier this month, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
But the athlete ultimately decided to take another, cheaper flight with a layover in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday
Back in March, de Jonge boarded a different Malaysia Airlines jet instead of Flight MH370, which disappeared somewhere over the Indian Ocean with 239 people on board.
‘I could have taken that one just as easily,’ de Jonge said in the RTV Oost interview. ‘It’s inconceivable. I am very sorry for the passengers and their families, yet I am very pleased I’m unharmed.’
In his written statement Friday, de Jonge downplayed his two very close calls, saying that his story is meaningless compared to those of the victims and their families.
He declined to comment further out of respect for the 298 passengers and crew of Flight MH17, at least 189 of them Dutch citizens, who perished in the tragedy.
It is widely believed that a surface-to-air missile shot the Boeing 777 out of the sky over rebel territory on the border between Russia and the Ukraine, but it is not clear who fired it.
On Friday, Malaysia Airlines offered to waive fees for any passengers wishing to delay or cancel their travel plans in the wake of Thursday’s disaster.
Source: Mail Online