Described as the “selfie to end all selfies” an Aberdeen oil worker just about broke the internet yesterday as he posed with the EgyptAir hijacker.
TWMA employee Ben Innes took the picture at Cyprus’ Larnaca airport before posting it on his Facebook page for his friends back in the north-east to see.
Innes was on board the EgyptAir plane flying from Alexandria to Cairo when it was hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday by a man wearing what authorities said was a fake suicide belt.
The hijacker, identified as Seif Eldin Mustafa eventually freed everyone on board and was arrested after giving himself up.
According to his Linked In social media profile, Innes is a QA/HSE systems auditor at engineering consultancy TWMA, which has its offices in Bridge of Don, Aberdeen.
He has worked for the company for 14 months, after joining from Unilever.
He describes himself as a “a driven professional with expertise in the implementation and improvement of HSEQ management systems within the high hazard and offshore industries.”
His background in risk assessment may explain why he was able to keep smiling while standing next to the hijacker wearing what he claimed was a suicide belt.
Innes’s profile states he attended the University of York from 2007-2011 where he gained a Bsc in Environmental Science.
Ben lists his key skills as, Occupational Health, Process Safety, Environmental Management Systems Environmental Compliance HSE Management Systems HSE auditing Hazard Recognition NEBOSHEnvironmental Awareness Auditing IOSH Behavior Based Safety ISO.
The photograph has now gone viral online, with one person who shared the picture, asking: “What to do when the hijacker has a bomb vest A: scream B: run C: take a selfie. I’m going with C.”
Another described it as “the selfie to end all selfies”.
Speaking to The Sun newspaper about the photograph, Mr Innes said: “I’m not sure why I did it, I just threw caution to the wind while trying to stay cheerful in the face of adversity.
“I figured if his bomb was real I’d nothing lose anyway, so took a chance to get a closer look at it.
“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.”
The Sun said Mr Innes texted his mother Pauline, and he added: “My mum was obviously frantic with worry and kept telling me not to do anything to draw attention to myself. I didn’t know how to tell her I’d already done a selfie with the hijacker.”
Egypt’s interior ministry identified the hijacker as 58-year-old Seif Eddin Mustafa, the Associated Press said.
Mr Innes, believed to be a health and safety auditor from Leeds, is said to have approached Mustafa while being held hostage on the tarmac, and sent the photograph to one of his flatmates as well as other friends, it was reported.
It is not clear how the photo of Mr Innes, who is believed to be in his 20s, made its way on to social media.
Mr Innes’s flatmate Chris Tundogan told MailOnline he had “no idea” why his friend had the photograph taken, adding: “I find it pretty mental, but that’s just Ben I guess.”
The Daily Telegraph said his mother Pauline did not want to discuss the incident until her son returns home safely.
“Obviously he’s not come home yet and there are security issues to think about – we don’t want to talk about anything until it has all been resolved,” she said, according to the newspaper.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said officials were providing consular support to four British nationals who were on board.
The alleged hijacker was arrested minutes after some of those being held were seen walking down the stairs of the plane, with another escaping through a cockpit window before they were led away by security officers.
EgyptAir said Cypriot authorities at the airport had confirmed “the explosive belt that the hijacker allegedly said that he was wearing is fake”.
Officials said early on the hijacking was not an act of terrorism, and later that the man appeared to be psychologically unstable.
The man was said to have initially asked to speak with his Cypriot ex-wife, who police brought to the airport.
At one point he demanded the release of women held in Egyptian prisons, but he then dropped the demand and made others.
According to The Guardian, an official at Egypt’s ministry of foreign affairs said: “He’s not a terrorist, he’s an idiot. Terrorists are crazy but they aren’t stupid. This guy is.”
The incident comes just five months after 224 people were killed when a Russian aircraft crashed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Russia later said an explosive device brought down the aircraft in October, and the extremist Islamic State group said it was responsible.