Dozens of Cana­di­ans shaken as plane smashes fence in Guyana

Times Colonist - - Canada / World - MICHELLE Mc­QUIGGE

A me­chan­i­cally faulty Toron­to­bound plane’s de­struc­tive emer­gency land­ing and sub­se­quent crash through a fence at Guyana’s main in­ter­na­tional air­port left its pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing dozens of Cana­di­ans, largely un­in­jured but still badly shaken, one of those on board said Fri­day.

In­vor Bedessee was among 82 Cana­di­ans on Fly Ja­maica flight OJ256, which ex­pe­ri­enced a hy­draulics fail­ure mo­ments af­ter de­part­ing from George­town, Guyana.

While grate­ful to have es­caped in­jury, Bedessee said he was still pro­cess­ing the close call hours later.

“I’m still shak­ing, I’m so shocked,” the Toronto man said from a George­town ho­tel. “It’s just a shock through my body. … I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t do it. It’s not pos­si­ble.”

Air­line of­fi­cials said the Boe­ing 757-200 air­craft ex­pe­ri­enced an emer­gency less than 20 min­utes af­ter tak­ing off from the Cheddi Ja­gan In­ter­na­tional Air­port and skid­ded off the run­way upon land­ing, dam­ag­ing its right wing and en­gine.

Bedessee, who was re­turn­ing home with a friend af­ter a week’s golf­ing va­ca­tion, said trou­ble be­gan on the flight well be­fore take­off when crew mem­bers and tech­ni­cians spent 40 min­utes strug­gling to close a door.

The even­tual take­off went smoothly, but he said it didn’t take long to learn that some­thing was amiss.

The cap­tain no­ti­fied the 128 peo­ple on board of the hy­draulic prob­lem and said they would be re­turn­ing to the air­port, Bedessee said. The flight then made sev­eral “s-shapes and cir­cles” in the sky, Bedessee said, in what he pre­sumed was an ef­fort to dump fuel.

The land­ing ap­peared to go smoothly at first, but soon the tires ap­peared to be “free­wheel­ing on the tar­mac,” he said.

The air­craft went to the end of the run­way where spikes de­signed to halt its progress burst sev­eral tires, he said, not­ing that sev­eral pas­sen­gers were scream­ing and pray­ing by that point.

“Then the plane swerved to the right and the right wing was flap­ping and it ripped apart away from the main fuse­lage,” he said. “And then the en­gine ac­tu­ally ro­tated 90 de­grees the other di­rec­tion.”

The plane bar­relled through a chain-link fence be­fore fi­nally com­ing to a halt at the top of an em­bank­ment, Bedessee said. An in­flat­able slide was then de­ployed to help pas­sen­gers evac­u­ate the air­craft.

Fly Ja­maica re­ported that two el­derly pas­sen­gers had been taken to hos­pi­tal as a pre­cau­tion af­ter the land­ing, and Bedessee said any in­juries were likely suf­fered dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion process.

“Peo­ple were com­ing down, and the peo­ple at the bot­tom were not get­ting up fast enough,” he said. “They’re get­ting kicked in the back, pushed around, walked over.”

Global Af­fairs said none of the Cana­di­ans on board suf­fered in­juries, adding that con­sular as­sis­tance was avail­able to any­one need­ing it.

Fly Ja­maica said the air­line was mak­ing ar­range­ments to fly the plane’s pas­sen­gers out of Guyana. The air­port set up a hot­line for fam­ily mem­bers look­ing for as­sis­tance and in­for­ma­tion.

Guyana’s largest air­port also had an emer­gency in­ci­dent in July 2011. A Boe­ing 737-800 air­craft be­long­ing to Trinidad-based Caribbean Air­lines crashed at Cheddi Ja­gan af­ter land­ing too far down the run­way and run­ning out of brak­ing space, in­jur­ing sev­eral peo­ple. The run­way then was 2,255 me­tres long, but is be­ing ex­tended to 3,048 me­tres.

ADRIAN NARINE, AP

A Fly Ja­maica Boe­ing 757-200 air­craft sits at Cheddi Ja­gan In­ter­na­tional Air­port in George­town, Guyana, on Fri­day af­ter over­shoot­ing the run­way and bar­relling through a chain-link fence.

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