Fly Ja­maica crash lands at Timehri –no fa­tal­i­ties

Stabroek News - - FRONT PAGE - By Mariah Lall

A Fly Ja­maica plane des­tined for Toronto, Canada crash-landed at the Cheddi Ja­gan In­ter­na­tional Air­port (CJIA) at Timehri early yes­ter­day morn­ing, leav­ing the crew and pas­sen­gers shaken but with­out any con­firmed se­ri­ous in­juries.

Pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tions have found that Fly Ja­maica’s Boe­ing 757 air­craft en­coun­tered hy­draulic is­sues shortly af­ter take­off.

In a brief state­ment, Fly Ja­maica Air­ways Chair­man Cap­tain Ron­ald Reece said the 118 pas­sen­gers and 8 crewmem­bers were safe. “We are pro­vid­ing lo­cal as­sis­tance and will re­lease fur­ther in­for­ma­tion as soon as it is avail­able,” the state­ment added.

Min­is­ter of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter David Pat­ter­son said the Fly Ja­maica flight OJ 257, which had been en route to Toronto, Canada had taken off from the CJIA at 2.10 am.

How­ever, at 2.21 am, the pi­lot and co-pi­lot, both of whom are Ja­maican, in­di­cated that there were some hy­draulic prob­lems and re­quested per­mis­sion to re­turn. It was noted that per­mis­sion was granted and af­ter spend­ing an es­ti­mated 43 min­utes in the air they were able to land the plane.

The air­craft, how­ever, over­shot the open run­way and veered to a closed sec­tion, re­sult­ing in dam­age to the right wing and pro­peller. The plane was im­me­di­ate evac­u­ated af­ter­ward.

Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence held yes­ter­day morn­ing at the air­port, Pat­ter­son said that an official in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been launched, which will be headed by Air­craft Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tor at the Guyana Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity (GCAA) Paula McA­dam, who will be as­sisted by in­spec­tors from the author­ity.

Ja­maica’s avi­a­tion au­thor­i­ties have also been in­formed and have since in­di­cated their will­ing­ness to give any as­sis­tance and sup­port that is nec­es­sary. Fly Ja­maica is based in Ja­maica.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Pat­ter­son said the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board (NTSB) in the US has been no­ti­fied, and an ac­cred­ited rep­re­sen­ta­tive has been des­ig­nated to as­sist with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mean­while, Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral of the GCAA Lt. Col (Ret’d) Eg­bert Field said that at the time of the press con­fer­ence, they had not yet in­ter­viewed the pi­lots and were not able to di­vulge any fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on what may have oc­curred.

He re­ported that the Flight Data Recorder and the Cock­pit Voice recorder, both of which are im­por­tant el­e­ments to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, have been se­cured and will be sent off to the NTSB shortly for de­cod­ing.

“There is a process for de­cod­ing. The flight data recorder is a lot eas­ier to deal with when it comes to de­cod­ing; the cock­pit recorder takes a lit­tle more time and that is why I said this in­ves­ti­ga­tion will take a lit­tle more time… we will try to get the black box out as soon as pos­si­ble and we will do this ei­ther by FedEx or UPS; we will look to see if we send it out, if not to­day, to­mor­row but to get it to the NTSB by Mon­day,” the Di­rec­tor­Gen­eral said.

When asked about whether the plane had un­der­gone main­te­nance re­cently, Field said they have not yet reached that stage of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion as yet. “This in­ves­ti­ga­tion will take some time and I ask that you bear with us as we go through it. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion is mainly to see what caused the ac­ci­dent, it is not to cast blame on any­one but it is used so that we and the global in­dus­try can utilise this for fu­ture safety el­e­ments which can be em­ployed,” he em­pha­sised.

Field also ex­plained that the plane will be handed over to its op­er­a­tors for re­moval once all nec­es­sary pho­to­graphs and mea­sure­ments at the ac­ci­dent site have been recorded. The area was cor­doned off by mem­bers of the Guyana Po­lice Force and Guyana De­fence Force to en­sure the in­tegrity of the scene.

‘Di­verted’

Pat­ter­son dis­closed that the Fly Ja­maica plane would have ended up in an al­most ex­act po­si­tion as the Caribbean Air­lines plane that had over­shot the run­way at Timehri and crash landed in 2011.

He noted, how­ever, that al­though the sec­tion of the run­way was not opened to air­port

traf­fic, the ex­ist­ing ex­ten­sion saved the plane from suf­fer­ing the same fate as the CAL air­craft, which had bro­ken into two.

“Luck­ily for us on this oc­ca­sion, the ex­ten­sion was there and they were able to utilise it. Be­fore the run­way ex­ten­sion, they would have suf­fered the same con­se­quences as CAL years ago,” Pat­ter­son said.

Ramesh Ghir, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of the Cheddi Ja­gan In­ter­na­tional Air­port, who was also present at the press con­fer­ence, ex­plained that though the run­way was re­opened for op­er­a­tion, some flights were di­verted.

“Our first out­bound flight for the day was the Caribbean Air­lines sched­uled to de­part at 5.35 am. How­ever, we worked closely with the Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity and made a de­ter­mi­na­tion on the open­ing of the aero­drome and so that air­craft was able to de­part at 7:30 am. In the mean­time, Caribbean Air­lines took a de­ci­sion to di­vert their in­com­ing BW527 to Trinidad while their BW601 re­mained grounded,” Ghir dis­closed.

Stabroek News un­der­stands that the flights were resched­uled, with the last de­layed flight hav­ing been ex­pected to ar­rive at 11.10 last night.

Com­ment­ing on the re­sponse by the air­port to the ac­ci­dent, the CEO lauded his staff for what he de­scribed as an ef­fec­tive ex­e­cu­tion of the Stan­dard Op­er­at­ing Pro­ce­dures.

“Our ini­tial re­sponse was in ac­cor­dance [with] the emer­gency re­sponse plan which would have meant that once alerted to the pos­si­bil­ity of an emer­gency, the con­trol tower would in turn no­tify the fire ser­vice and the air­port duty of­fi­cer. So, our feed­back is that the fire ser­vice re­sponded early and were the first at the scene and then the cascade of alert­ing all the other agen­cies was done,” he shared.

In the mean­time, Ghir said the air­port will be lend­ing sup­port to Fly Ja­maica and will be work­ing closely with them on the re­lo­ca­tion of the air­craft.

“Ef­fec­tive”

Speak­ing on the pas­sen­gers aboard the flight were Min­is­ter within the Min­istry of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture An­nette Fer­gu­son and Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer at the Min­istry of Pub­lic Health Dr. Shamdeo Per­saud.

It was dis­closed dur­ing the press con­fer­ence that on board the air­craft were 120 pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing na­tion­als from Guyana, Ja­maica, Trinidad, the US, Canada and Pak­istan.

Dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion of the plane, slides were used and sev­eral per­sons suf­fered mi­nor in­juries af­ter be­com­ing stuck at the bot­tom. They were sub­se­quently rushed to the Di­a­mond Di­ag­nos­tic Cen­tre where they were treated and ei­ther dis­charged or trans­ferred.

Per­saud noted that 10 per­sons who suf­fered a variety of in­juries typ­i­cal to the spe­cific mea­sure of evac­u­a­tion of the air­craft were safely re­moved to the hos­pi­tals.

“So far, we have five per­sons who are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for spinal in­juries and be­cause Di­a­mond Hospi­tal at that point could not have done ev­ery­thing, seven were trans­ferred to the [Georgetown Pub­lic Hospi­tal Cor­po­ra­tion] for fur­ther tests. There were a few per­sons who ex­pe­ri­enced high blood pressure; there were seven other per­sons who were treated at the air­line by port health of­fi­cers,” Dr. Per­saud dis­closed.

“For some of them, their med­i­ca­tions were left on the air­craft be­cause dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion process they were not al­lowed to bring out their carry on, in which some of them had their med­i­ca­tion. We did sup­ply them with med­i­ca­tion and we are still try­ing to source med­i­ca­tion for one per­son who has a heart con­di­tion,” he added, while not­ing that health of­fi­cials will mon­i­tor the results of the per­sons with spinal in­juries.

Not­with­stand­ing, the CMO was pleased to re­port that the Di­a­mond Hospi­tal was equipped with most of the equip­ment, and was able to sta­bilise the spines of the in­jured pas­sen­gers with spinal boards and af­fix them with a safe col­lar while they awaited the results of x-rays and in some cases MRI and CT scans that were or­dered for them.

“We were also able to lo­cate the rel­a­tives of all ex­cept one who were taken to the hospi­tal; the nurses were still try­ing to make con­tact us­ing the num­bers pro­vided by the pas­sen­ger. We were also able to pro­vide them with meals in ad­di­tion to ad­min­is­ter­ing med­i­ca­tion, like­wise for the one here at the hold­ing bay where we had the other pas­sen­gers,” he added.

Mean­while, Fer­gu­son, who would have met with pas­sen­gers yes­ter­day morn­ing, ex­plained that that they were all taken to a hold­ing fa­cil­ity at the CJIA, where Fly Ja­maica took all in­for­ma­tion and made pro­vi­sions for them to be trans­ported to their re­spec­tive homes or ho­tels.

She also noted that they have since been ad­vised that few of the pas­sen­gers would be ac­com­mo­dated on CAL flights from to­day.

In re­sponse to ques­tions about coun­selling for pas­sen­gers, the min­is­ter said though it did not come up as a pri­or­ity for some of the pas­sen­gers, it was still an op­tion.

(Ter­ence Thomp­son photo)

The Fly Ja­maica plane at the CJIA yes­ter­day morn­ing

At the press con­fer­ence (from right) are GCAA Head Eg­bert Field, Min­is­ter in the Min­istry of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture An­nette Fer­gu­son, Min­is­ter in the Min­istry of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture David Pat­ter­son, Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Les­lie James, CJIA Cor­po­ra­tion head Ramesh Ghir and Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer, Dr Shamdeo Per­saud.

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