A University of York graduate has made national headlines and social media stardom after posing for a photograph with his alleged captor on board the highjacked Airbus A320, which was involved in a five-hour standoff on Tuesday.
Ben Innes, 26, was one of only a handful of passengers and staff held hostage after Egyptian national Seif al-Din Mustafa announced he was strapped with explosives and took control of the EgyptAir flight from Alexandria to Cairo, forcing an emergency landing in Larnaca, Cyprus.
On arrival, Mustafa released most of the 62 people on board. Innes, however, was kept behind, shortly after which he decided to ask if he might take a photo with the highjacker.
The health and safety auditor from Leeds told The Sun it was a spontaneous move, partly motivated by a suspicion that the bomb might be fake.
“I’m not sure why I did it,” Innes said, “I just threw caution to the wind while trying to stay cheerful in the face of adversity.
“I also thought it would be a way to see whether his device was real. I could see something taped around his waist and he was holding on to some kind of a trigger.
“It was hard to be sure, but I reckoned it was more likely to be fake after I got a close look at it.”
I thought, ‘Why not? If he blows us all up it won’t matter anyway.’
On requesting the photo, Innes was met with nonchalance.
“I got one of the cabin crew to translate for me and asked him if I could do a selfie with him.
“He just shrugged OK so I stood by him and smiled for the camera while a stewardess did the snap. It has to be the best selfie ever.”
A friend from the University of York told The Telegraph that the news didn’t surprise them at all, as Innes is “very into his banter”.
They said, “Ben is a wild man and this is totally in character for him. He was a big rugby guy and […] didn’t have much respect for authority.”
After the hijacking episode which lasted six hours, Innes and the remaining hostages were released when Mustafa gave himself up to police. The ‘suicide belt’ the Egyptian had been wearing was found to be fake.
Innes recalled, “We moved towards the door as he went to the back of the plane — then we ran for it, expecting the aircraft to explode.
“When we got to a safe distance we laughed out loud with relief.”