A man says he barely missed the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed on Sunday’s route to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board due to a number of small events. Antonis Mavropoulos shared a picture of his boarding pass along with an emotional post on Facebook called “My Lucky Day,” detailing the events he said led him to miss Flight 302. At 8:38 a.m. the Nairobi-bound jet took off. Ethiopian Airlines said Sunday that they had lost contact with Addis Ababa Bole International Airport six minutes later. There were 149 passengers and eight crew members on board the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Mavropoulos, who lives in Greece and runs a recycling company, traveled to an environmental conference in Nairobi and had a connecting flight in Addis Abeba. Mavropoulos told Greek news channel Skai TV that he had less than 30 minutes to get to the gate for the next leg of his trip when his first flight arrived in Ethiopia.
“When I arrived, boarding had closed and I saw the last passengers in the tunnel going in [to the airplane],” he wrote in his now-viral Facebook post. “I yelled for them to let me in but I wasn’t allowed.”
Mavropoulos and a representative from Ethiopian Airlines did not respond to requests for comment.
Mavropoulos told Skai TV he was frustrated, but that airport employees said they were sorry for the inconvenience and were helpful in booking him on a flight that departed later in the morning.
After about a three-hour wait, Mavropoulos said he was getting ready for the next plane when he was stopped by two security guards who told him he could not board for security reasons.
He wrote that he protested “intensely,” but the guards brought him to their supervisor, who “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,” Mavropoulos said.
Airport security staffers had Mavropoulos wait while they made sure who he was and why he didn’t get on the flight, he wrote. While waiting, he read the news about Flight 302 and immediately called his family to tell them he was not on the aircraft.
“At that moment I collapsed because I realized exactly just how lucky I am,” he wrote.
Mavropoulos added that he thinks he missed the flight because of the short connection and the fact that he only had carry-on luggage.
“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 told Skai TV.
Mavropoulos, who is still in Nairobi, added that he did not sleep all night because “it is difficult to comprehend exactly what happened.”
He said he posted about the event on Facebook as a way of handling the shock of the past two days.
“I’m posting because I want to tell everyone that the invisible threads of luck — the unplanned circumstances — knit the web of which our life is caught on,” he wrote. “There are millions of small threads that we usually never feel — but if one breaks that whole web unwinds instantaneously.”
Mavropoulos concluded his post with a nod to British rock band Jethro Tull, writing, “Maybe not too old to rock n roll — but certainly too young to die.”