March 22, 2016 5:56 pm
Updated: March 22, 2016 8:57 pm

Brussels attacks: Edmonton cyclist narrowly misses airport bombings due to delayed flight

WATCH ABOVE: An Alberta cyclist was flying over Brussels with his team when their flight was diverted due to the attacks. Shallima Maharaj has his story.


EDMONTON — An Edmonton athlete says a delayed flight out of Montreal kept his cycling team from being at the Brussels airport when bombs exploded there Tuesday morning.

Evan Burtnik and the rest of Cycling Canada’s NextGen Men’s Track Endurance team were scheduled to land in Brussels at 7:50 a.m. Tuesday, about 40 minutes before two explosions ripped through the Brussels airport during the morning rush.

“We would have just been getting our bags when they went off,” Burtnik said over the phone Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s pretty crazy to think that we would have been a part of that.”

Watch below: Global News’ ongoing coverage of the Brussels attacks

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The team was flying from Toronto to Brussels, with a stop in Montreal. But because of issues with the plane, the team was forced to switch airplanes in Montreal, delaying their travel plans by about an hour.

About one hour before the plane was supposed to land in Brussels, the captain made an announcement saying they were being re-routed to Paris.

“It’s kind of scary,” Burtnik said. “I don’t think it’s really hit home yet. All my friends and family were asleep when we landed so I text all of them and they had no idea what was going on.

“Once they all started waking up, I just started getting flooded with texts like, ‘Are you in Brussels?'”

LIVE COVERAGE: Brussels on lockdown after explosions rock airport, subway

TIMELINE: How the deadly Brussels attacks unfolded at the airport and subway

Burtnik said the team planned to drop off their cycling equipment in a town just outside Brussels then fly to Malaga, Spain for training camp. Instead, the team will spend the night in the Paris area and head to Malaga in the coming days.

At least 31 people were killed when bombs exploded at the Brussels airport and in the city’s subway system. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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