Dubai: A moment of life and death, that’s how one young mum Hassna Abdullah recalled the horror of her experience onboard Biman Bangladesh Airlines Flight BG147 after it was hijacked by a lone gunman on Sunday.
The flight departed Dhaka at around 4.30pm local time bound for Dubai via a scheduled stop in Chittagong as usual.
However, during that domestic 40 minute leg of the journey from Dhaka to Chittagong, a gunman who was sitting in the front rows tried to hijack the plane and threatened to blow up the Boeing 737-800.
Security forces surrounded the plane on the tarmac when it arrived at Chittagong and all 150 passengers and crew were able to escape before commandos entered the plane and exchanged fire with the gunman, who later died of his injuries.
The flight, rescheduled with a different crew and plane, finally reached Dubai a little after 5.30pm on Monday, a full 19 hours after it was first scheduled to arrive.
The passengers spoke to Gulf News as they were reunited with their loved ones in Terminal One. “Fifteen minutes into our journey after taking off from Dhaka we heard a loud bang,” said Hassna, 22, a housewife, who was travelling to Dubai with her one-year-old son Saad to reunite with her husband Abdullah Mia, 26, a typing centre clerk based in Hor Al Anz, Deira.
“All passengers thought that maybe there was a fire on board the plane but after that the gunman made another sound. Maybe he was shooting blanks we don’t know but we were all scared.
“Everybody was very afraid and we were thinking we would die. The pilot was unable to control the situation and some passengers went to the toilets to save their lives.”
Another passenger, Babul Rashid, 58, said: “The gunman was just a crazy man. He fired several shots on board. I was worried of course. I was seated behind the wings and he was near the first class door. He was far from me but I saw everything.
“When we landed the hostesses opened the door and we jumped for our lives. I didn’t see the gunman get shot but the army came on and they successfully brought the situation under control. We were taken to the terminal and we didn’t see anything after that.”
Hassna’s husband Abdullah said he faced an anxious wait for information from his wife because in her haste she jumped from the plane without her handbag and phone and thus couldn’t call.
“She eventually borrowed someone else’s phone inside the terminal and managed to ring me. It was life or death that’s why she left her things behind.
“They spent the whole night in the airport and I managed to speak to other passengers who had lent their phones to my wife and they all said they felt sure they wouldn’t survive.
“I was very worried and didn’t sleep all night, still now I’m under enormous tension thinking about my wife and kid and how worried they must have been.
“This was her first ever journey to be with me in Dubai and I’m worried now she will refuse to come and see my again. I spoke to her four or five times overnight to try and persuade her to still come.
“She said she would rather ride the bus back to Dhaka, but I said you are in the airport now and can’t get out so you have to come.
“We will celebrate tonight to welcome her and my son to Dubai. I’m so glad they are safe.”
Babul Rashid’s cousin Harun, 39, a businessman from Sharjah, spent the whole night waiting at Dubai airport.
“I didn’t want to go back to Sharjah in case the flight came. I saw the news and got very worried. Then they kept delaying the revised flight times. I’m very close to my cousin so this has been very difficult and I’ve not slept all night from 10.15pm, which is the time it was meant to land last night until now.”
Biman pilots coming off the flight confirmed to Gulf News that the entire crew, including flight staff, had been changed for the rescheduled flight as well as the plane, but wouldn’t say anymore.