DUBAI, United Arab Emirates —After he escaped unharmed from the burning wreckage of an Emirates airplane that had crash-landed in Dubai, Mohamed Basheer already considered himself lucky.

Then came the call telling him he had won $1 million.

“I said, ‘Don’t joke!’ ” the 62-year-old Indian recounted, laughing inside the auto-body repair shop where he works in Dubai. “They said, ‘Yes, you are the winner!’ I said, ‘No!’ ”

Basheer won Dubai Duty Free’s Millennium Millionaire sweepstakes Tuesday with a ticket he purchased July 6, just before he boarded an Emirates flight to head to India’s Kerala state and his hometown of Pallickal.

He believes the 1,000-dirham ($270) ticket, No. 845 in Series M222, was his 17th attempt to win.

Yet perhaps his luckiest numbers were yet to come as he boarded Emirates flight EK521 on Aug. 3 to return to Dubai. Sitting in seat 26G, Basheer said the flight passed normally for the 300 onboard until the Boeing 777-300 attempted to land at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest international airfield.


The plane hit the runway, bounced and slammed into the ground again. For Basheer, who works at Al Tayer Motors auto body shop as a fleet operations coordinator, it felt like the shuddering stop of a speeding car with anti-lock brakes. The cabin quickly filled with smoke.

“Nobody knows what’s happening,” Basheer said Wednesday. “But I’m not scared. … I was supporting the people and also I saved my life.”

He jumped out of the emergency exit and down the slide. He said he saw the explosion that caused the crash’s only fatality, an Emirati firefighter responding to the blaze.

But he said he remained in awe that the passengers all escaped.

“That really is a miracle,” Basheer said. “Thanks for God and thanks for the pilot.”

An investigation into the crash is ongoing.


Basheer immediately went back to work at the body shop.

And then, at 1.45 p.m. Tuesday, he received the phone call telling him he’d won.

Basheer said the money isn’t life-changing, though it can help his partially paralyzed son, grown daughter, grandchildren and wife.

He’ll keep working until mandatory retirement and will try to create a program to help the poor by teaching them useful work skills.

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