Everything seemed to proceed according to plan when two teachers, Pradeep Tudu, vice-president for finance and development and Youssry Guirguis, a lecturer in Religious studies, from the Asia-Pacific International University (APIU) received a notification from Ethiopian Airlines updating them about their upcoming flight to Kenya. Little did they know that they would be a part of a story they would want to share with the world.
Tudu and Guirguis are colleagues from APIU who wanted to take a trip to Kenya. On March 9, the day before they left for their trip, Tudu received a message updating them about their scheduled flight saying their flight had been changed to leave several hours later.
Their planned route was to stop at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and board an Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 to Nairobi. The sudden flight reschedules would cause them to miss their flight.
After seeing the message from the airline, the two were frustrated and started making calls to find out if anything could be done to help make their connecting flight.
“We tried to call the airline office, but we were not able to make any contact,” said Tudu. “We did not know if there was another flight and we did not want to be stranded in Addis Ababa.”
When they arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, they looked for the Ethiopian Airlines office but were unsuccessful. They called the main office in Bangkok, and the answering machine said the office was closed.
Guirguis recounted their efforts just to get an early flight to Addis Ababa. “The answering machine gave us a few numbers that work 24 hours a day. Each time we tried to call a number, it lacked a digit. We were unable to get through,” he said. “We wondered why the numbers were not working. All of these attempts were to make sure that we would not miss the Ethiopian flight ET 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.”
The two boarded their flight from Bangkok and took off for Addis Ababa as scheduled. At 9 am the next day, while nearing their destination, they noticed their plane had been flying in circles over Ethiopia for the past sixty minutes. “We thought that the pilot was touring us over the country,” said Guirguis.
Then they heard the pilot announce: “Sorry for the delay in landing; we were asked to look for a missing flight. In six minutes, we will land.”
Tudu and Guirguis arrived safely in Addis Ababa at 10:30 AM, March 10. They were still a little disappointed about the flight delay but were given a connecting flight to Nairobi later that day.
As Tudu and Guirguis boarded their flight, a commotion among the passengers on their flight caught their attention. Out of curiosity, they inquired what the commotion was all about and were told that the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302, which they were supposed to take, crashed six minutes after take-off earlier that day.
“The fact that the plane crashed shortly after leaving Ethiopia’s capital, killing all 157 people on board, left my colleague and me in a state of shock,” said Guirguis.
“For a moment we were in the midst of grief and yet, experiencing a miracle at the same time,” said Guirguis. “Instead of wasting time trying to grasp reality, we read the Bible and prayed many times. We also tried to comfort the crew members who were weeping for the loss of eight of their fellow crew members.”
Upon hearing the news, 25 passengers got scared and decided to disembark and not continue on to Kenya. As a result, the plane was delayed for two more hours. It took five hours from the time they landed in Ethiopia to the time they arrived in Kenya.
During those excruciating hours, families, friends, and co-workers from Thailand and the Adventist University of Africa (AUA) in Kenya, who heard about the plane crash, were distraught and anxious waiting to hear news from them. In an interview, Benjamin Guirguis, grade five student and son of Guirguis said, “I could not imagine that my father would have been on the plane that crashed. If he were on that plane, I would not take flights for ages.”
That day when their lives were spared from a life time sentence, Tudu and Guirguis made a commitment to share with the world that God saved their lives.
“There are plenty of questions that are running at the back of our minds. Why did this happen? Why did God spare our lives? What is so special about us,” said Guirguis. “But at the end of the day, we can conclude that we were saved by God’s miracle. It was a miracle of God’s saving grace.”