Greek man Antonis Mavropoulos said on Sunday he would have been the 150th passenger on the Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines Boeing plane that crashed killing all on board, however he arrived two minutes late for the flight and ground staff refused to let him on board.
“I saw the last passengers going through, but the gate had already closed. I complained, in the usual way when that kind of thing happens. But they were very kind and placed me on another flight,” Antonis Mavropoulos told Greece’s Skai TV, speaking via Skype from Nairobi.
Mavropoulos, president of the International Solid Waste Association, a non-profit recycling company, was travelling to Nairobi to attend the annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme, according to ANA.
He was supposed to board the plane but he reached the departure gate just two minutes after it was closed.
He booked a later flight but was then prevented from boarding by airport staff.
In a post on Facebook, entitled “My Lucky Day”, Mavropoulos said he only became aware of the crash while preparing to check in for a later flight when he again was stopped by airport staff.
“They led me to the police station of the airport. The officer told me not to protest but to pray to God because I was the only passenger that didn’t board the ET 302 flight that was lost,’ Mavropoulos said in his post in which he admits being in shock.
The airport authorities explained that they wanted to question him because he was the only passenger booked onto the doomed flight who wasn’t on board.
“They said they couldn’t let me go before cross-checking my identity, the reason I hadn’t boarded the plane etc.”
“I’m slowly coming to terms with what happened and how close it came. On the other hand, I’m also very upset – I’m shattered – for those who were lost,” he said in the interview Monday. “To be honest, I didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“I didn’t check my suitcase, because I knew the gap between connecting flights was tight. If I had checked the bag in, they would have waited for me,” he said. “This is a very difficult moment – one that can change your life.”
“A (staff member) politely told me not to protest and say I should thank God, because I was the only passenger who did not board Flight 302, which was still missing… At first, I thought he was lying, but his manner left no room for doubt,” he wrote.
“I felt the ground disappear under my feet. … I have written this to manage the shock that I’m feeling.”
“Maybe not too old to rock n roll – but certainly too young to die,” Antonis also wrote on his Facebook post.