A Dutch cyclist has revealed how he twice cheated death after changing his plans to fly on both the Malaysia Airlines passenger jets involved in international aviation disasters over the past four months.
Maarten de Jonge, 29, has to travel around the world to compete for Malaysia’s Terengganu cycling team – and in doing so has now had two extraordinary near misses.
Speaking to the Dutch public broadcaster RTV Oost, De Jonge said he had been due to travel on flight MH17, the Boeing 777 that was shot down over Ukraine on Thursday killing all of the almost 300 passengers on board.
The cyclist said that he only decided to swap flights at the last minute, after discovering that travelling via Frankfurt today would prove cheaper.
Tweeting a link on Thursday to a Dutch article about the MH17 disaster, De Jonge said: “Had I departed today, then…”
During his interview with the local broadcaster, the cyclist revealed something even more remarkable – that he had also been planning to travel on flight MH370, the Malaysia jet which vanished on 8 March and which remains missing somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
De Jonge had been due to compete in a race in Taiwan, Marca reported, and decided to take a different flight an hour earlier that did not include a stopover in Beijing.
He told RTV Oost that having changed his flight plans at the last minute he actually spoke to a number of passengers who were waiting to board MH370 – and who have not been seen since.
“I could have taken that one just as easily,” De Jonge said in an interview with RTV Oost. “It's inconceivable. I am very sorry for the passengers and their families, yet I am very pleased I'm unharmed.”
Since hinting at his close calls on Twitter, the cyclist said he had been “overwhelmed” by the international response to his story.
In a statement on his website, De Jonge said he would not be giving any further interviews out of respect for those who have died in the two tragedies.
“What has happened is terrible, so many victims, that's a horrible thing,” he said. “I have my story and I would like to leave it at that... my story is ultimately nothing compared to the misery so many people have suffered.”
De Jonge said that while his parents had expressed concern that he still plans to fly Malaysia Airlines when he leaves the Netherlands today, he isn’t letting what has happened put him off flying.
“You should try not to worry too much because then you won't get anywhere,” he told RTV Oost. “I have been lucky twice, this will be the third time as well.”