Cork chefs saved from MH17 disaster by last-minute flight change

Ujang.

By Denise O'Donoghue

It has emerged that two Cork-based chefs switched their flight from the downed Malaysia Airways flight MH17 to save €400, inadvertently saving their lives.

Zuul and Ujang should have been passengers on Malaysia Airways flight MH17 which was shot down while flying over the Ukraine but at the last minute opted to fly with Emirates.

Dave Dwyer, owner of Ramen restaurant where the two men work, told Newstalk's Jonathan Healy that Malaysia Airways flight MH17 was "always the preferential choice for the route".

"The families all go out that way but now they're reconsidering their position after what happened."

Their families made the journey home a month ago, but the two chefs stayed behind in Cork to help boss Dave open a new restaurant.

"We're opening a new restaurant in Dennehy's Cross and Zuul and Ujang were kindly training all the new chefs in and didn't travel with their families. They delayed it until Thursday morning when they left at 6am, and that's the last I heard of them."

Dave was the one who informed his staff that the flight had gone down. Zuul's brother was one of the chefs working in Ramen at the time.

"I felt like a guard calling to the door," he said.

"I went straight to Anglesea Street to meet Zuul's brother and took him outside. We had a bit of a chat about the whole thing and I got him to listen to the news. I think it took about five minutes for that to sink in."

The two men, who have been living in Cork for 15 years, were flying to Kuala Lumpar to spend a month at home for Ramadan. They had not made the journey for six years.

They were still in the air when news of flight MH17 broke and they were completely unaware of the situation. Their anxious families were waiting for them at the airport when they landed.

"Zuul got a surprise, all his family were there hugging and kissing him. He couldn't believe all the fuss. He's actually in shock now about the whole thing.

"They're with their families now in Kuala Lumpar. They have eight kids between them, three and five, and they've just met all their family. It's the first time they've met their family in six years."

Dave said their last-minute, money-saving decision is the reason they are still alive.

"They saved €200 each flying this way and that's what saved their lives. They were saving for this flight to get home for Ramadan for the last couple of years.

"It was huge for them. That was the difference between being alive and dead at this stage."

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