More than 200 people from around the country were temporarily stranded in Washington yesterday when a promised free charter flight to the African country of Rwanda failed to show up at Dulles International Airport for a Thursday morning departure.
The travelers -- zoo and park officials, community development workers, business people and journalists -- had been invited to attend the First International Fair for the Protection of the Gorillas, scheduled to begin today.
According to Christophe Habimana, charge' of the Rwandan embassy, the confusion occurred because the organizer of the trip, a 22-year-old entrepreneur, has disappeared. He was organizing the trip under contract with Rwanda's Office of Tourism and the Digit Foundation, founded by the late Dian Fossey, the protector of the country's endangered mountain gorillas whose efforts were depicted in the 1988 movie "Gorillas in the Mist."
Habimana said yesterday he has reported the man's disappearance to the State Department.
In a briefing at a downtown hotel, he told the stranded travelers that the trip would go forward as soon as the Rwandan embassy in Paris arranged for a new charter. He said the flight would most likely take off from Dulles sometime today, picking up more passengers in Paris before going on to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.