Istanbul airport attack

National runner and coach stranded en route home

National runner Dipna Lim-Prasad (right) with her coach Luis Cunha at the San Antonio International Meet in Portugal.
National runner Dipna Lim-Prasad (right) with her coach Luis Cunha at the San Antonio International Meet in Portugal. PHOTO: DIPNA LIM-PRASAD

National runner Dipna Lim-Prasad, expecting a three-hour stopover in Ataturk airport yesterday, was instead stranded for more than 28 hours with hundreds of passengers in Istanbul in the aftermath of Tuesday's terror attack.

She was accompanied by Luis Cunha, the national coach for sprints, relays and hurdles.

Speaking to The Straits Times from Istanbul yesterday morning, a tired Lim-Prasad said: "(I am) shocked, sad.

"It happened about 30 minutes before we landed; we were just told there was an emergency.

"The airport shut down for a few hours so we disembarked only three hours after we landed."

She was en route home from Lisbon, where she had finished third in the 400m race in the San Antonio International Meet on June 20, clocking a new personal best of 55.59sec.

She had been training and competing in Portugal last month.

When the passengers on the Turkish Airlines flight finally disembarked, the athlete had received news of the suicide bombings on her mobile phone.

Her connecting flight, Turkish Airlines TK54 from Istanbul to Singapore, was eventually cancelled, as were most other flights.

After about eight hours, Lim-Prasad and Cunha, a Portuguese, finally secured their seats on the same flight back to Singapore.

Their flight was due to depart this morning at 6.50am (Singapore time) and scheduled to arrive in Changi Airport at 5.55pm today.

The airline arranged to put them up in a hotel in Istanbul, where they were able to rest after going without sleep for an entire night.

Lim-Prasad expressed her sympathy for the local airport staff, who had to deal with unhappy passengers on top of the terror attack.

She said: "The terminal was really crowded and everyone was getting different information, so naturally people were grumpy."

By daybreak, she said: "The airport is functioning pretty well; repairs are ongoing."

She said: "It (my tiredness) is nothing compared to the staff's. Their friends were hurt or killed in their workplace and after all of that, they still have to work and deal with some passengers who were rude.

"The staff were really brave, and it was heartbreaking to see them having to take care of us and try to help us despite having gone through this attack."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'National runner and coach stranded en route home'. Print Edition | Subscribe