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Dutch Professional Cyclist Escapes Malaysian Air Crash Twice

Malaysian Airlines Flag at Half Mast
A Malaysian Airlines flag flies at half mast in front of the control tower at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, on July 19, 2014. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

A Dutch cyclist, riding for the Terrengganu team in Malaysia, escaped a Malaysian Airline System Bdh. crash. Twice.

Maarten de Jonge, 29, born in the Dutch town of Oldenzaal according to his website, was planning to travel back to Kuala Lumpur on flight MH17 from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on July 17 after visiting his home country to participate in national championships. He decided to swap flights as traveling via Frankfurt on Sunday would save him some money, he told local broadcaster RTV Oost yesterday.

That decision meant he was not among 298 people, of which at least 189 Dutch citizens, killed as the jetliner was downed over Ukraine. Months earlier, in March, he took another Malaysian Air flight out of Kuala Lumpur, at the same time and in the same direction as a Boeing Co. 777 wide-body airliner taking off for Beijing. That plane has been missing without trace ever since, with no debris found despite the longest search mission in civil aviation.

“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.”

De Jonge didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment. In a statement on his website yesterday he said he was “overwhelmed” by the responses and requests he has received since posting a tweet “Had I departed today, then...” He declined to comment further out of respect for the victims and their next of kins, according to the statement.

The Malaysian plane from Schiphol was probably shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by rebels from insurgent-held territory in Ukraine, U.S. Ambassador to UN Samantha Power told the Security Council in New York. The U.S. can’t rule out the possibility of Russian assistance to the separatists, she said.

De Jonge finished in 35th place in the Dutch cycling championship on June 30, according to his website. He is still planning to fly back to Malaysia on July 20, on a Malaysian Air flight via Frankfurt, he said.

“You should try not to worry too much because then you won’t get anywhere,” he told RTV Oost.

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