A Dutch cyclist who says he was scheduled to be on both Malaysia Airlines flights MH370 and MH17 — only to switch his tickets at the last minute — knows he's lucky to be alive but has decided to stop speaking publicly about it.
Maarten de Jonge, a 29-year-old rider for the Terengganu team in Malaysia, said in a statement on his website that he's been inundated with media requests since tweeting about his fortunate change of plans.
"I'm frankly overwhelmed by the number of requests," de Jonge said. "What has happened is terrible, so many victims, that's a horrible thing. From reverence for the victims and their families, I do not think it [is] appropriate to tell my story."
Officials say 298 people — 189 of them Dutch citizens — were killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was struck by a surface-to-air missile along the Russia-Ukraine border.
While de Jonge said he is "happy" he decided not to take the flight at "the last moment," his story "is ultimately nothing compared to the misery so many people are [experiencing]. Attention should be paid to the victims and survivors. Wishing everyone affected by this disaster a lot of strength."
The cyclist was planning to travel back to Kuala Lumpur on Flight MH17 on July 17 after competing in last month's National Championship Road Race in the Netherlands, but told a local television station he decided to save money by flying through Frankfurt instead.
According to the Telegraph, de Jonge was scheduled to be on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing in March but switched his ticket to avoid a stopover. The flight disappeared from radar and has yet to be found.
"I could have taken that one just as easily," de Jonge said, according to RTV Oost. "It's inconceivable. I am very sorry for the passengers and their families, yet I am very pleased I'm unharmed."
According to his website, de Jonge, who finished 35th at the Dutch cycling event, was still planning to fly to Malaysia via Frankfurt on Sunday.
"I have been lucky twice,” he said. “You should try not to worry too much because then you won’t get anywhere."
- Malaysia Airlines