An Israeli man recounted on Tuesday the “terrifying” four hours he spent on the ground in Tehran after the plane he was on was forced to carry out an emergency landing.
Bar Azoulay, fresh from a five-month backpacking trip to India, was flying from New Delhi to Istanbul en route to Bucharest to take part in his future brother-in-law’s bachelor party.
“Luckily I’m speaking to you from Bucharest and not Tehran,” he told Channel 12 news in an interview Tuesday evening in which he recounted the previous day’s experience of landing in an enemy state that has long vowed to destroy Israel.
He said he fell asleep on the flight and was awakened by an Indian woman sitting next to him because the plane was landing.
“I didn’t understand how we could be landing so soon. I looked up at the map on the screen and saw that we were landing in Tehran. I didn’t understand what was happening, but then I saw a hysterical crowd around a man lying on the floor,” he recalled.
“It later turned out he had suffered cardiac arrest, so we had to carry out an emergency landing in the capital of Iran.”
He added: “Even talking about it now gives me goosebumps, both from seeing a man going through resuscitation attempts, that was a hard thing to see, and from the landing itself.
“I was very anxious, they didn’t tell us anything. We didn’t know if we would have to leave the plane or not. I realized I was going to land in Iran and all sorts of very bad scenarios started running through my head,” Azoulay said.
“My first thought was that my life was over, and my trip was finished. My sister is going to be married in three days, and I started to believe I wouldn’t be there. I was sure they would take us off the plane, and they were going to just take me. I was scared to say I was Israeli.”
A flight attendant he spoke to couldn’t tell him if they’d be taken off the plane and onto Iranian soil. “We’ll only know after we land,” he recalled her saying.
But the harrowing experience ended well, he told the interviewer.
“After we landed, a medical crew boarded the plane, and I just sat there hoping they won’t take us off. I promised myself that if I have to leave, it definitely won’t be alone.”
But after the resuscitation efforts concluded and the man was removed from the plane, “we waited another four hours – and that’s it.” The plane took off again for Istanbul.
“Those entire 24 hours I experienced yesterday felt like an eternity,” he said.
In a separate incident, an El Al plane from Tel Aviv to Vienna carried out an emergency landing in Larnaca, Cyprus, after passengers smelled smoke in the cabin. Passengers were removed from the plane to a hotel in the city, according to the Walla news site.