‘It was crazy’ -pas­sen­ger re­counts `near death’ ex­pe­ri­ence

-Fly Ja­maica pas­sen­ger re­counts crash land­ing

Stabroek News - - FRONT PAGE - By Dhanash Ram­roop

“Ev­ery­one was scream­ing, curs­ing, you name it. They were call­ing God and I don’t know who else they were call­ing on, it was just crazy,” pas­sen­ger In­vor Bedessee, who was set to re­turn home to Canada, re­called yes­ter­day af­ter the crash land­ing of his Fly Ja­maica flight at the Cheddi Ja­gan In­ter­na­tional Air­port (CJIA) Timehri hours ear­lier.

The flight, OJ 256, which was bound for Toronto, Canada, ex­pe­ri­enced “hy­draulic is­sues” while still in Guyana’s airspace. As a re­sult, the cap­tain de­cided to turn around and land back at CJIA but the plane ca­reened off of the run­way.

Bedessee told Stabroek News in an in­ter­view that the flight was ini­tially de­layed for over 45 min­utes af­ter the plane en­coun­tered an is­sue with one of its doors.

“They couldn’t close it and so af­ter five min­utes they called in main­te­nance and spent about 40 min­utes to fix the prob­lem. They took that part out, changed this part out, while ev­ery­one was sit­ting, wait­ing. Af­ter about 45 min­utes, they fi­nally got the door fixed and that’s how we got de­layed,” Bedessee re­called.

Af­ter be­ing de­layed, he said the flight left around 2.10 am and what he was ex­pect­ing to be a smooth flight home, af­ter a “smooth take off” did not oc­cur. In­stead, he had what he called his “first near death ex­pe­ri­ence,” which left him trau­ma­tised.

“It [take off] was smooth but af­ter 10 min­utes, and I can still see Georgetown and that we’re go­ing up, around 2.25 [am] or so, I saw the plane was cir­cling around and I asked my­self what is go­ing on,” Bedessee re­counted.

He said that at that point he knew there was some­thing sig­nif­i­cantly wrong be­cause of the way the plane was fly­ing. Not long af­ter, the cap­tain an­nounced that they have “some hy­draulic is­sues” and would have to turn back and land at CJIA.

“So we turned back now and we are go­ing back down and the re­verse thrusters start kick­ing in and we hit the ground but the tyre brake was not lock­ing or stop­ping and when we hit the ground it just kept on rolling to­wards the end of the run­way,” he re­called.

While most of the pas­sen­gers were asleep prior to land­ing, Bedessee said that all of them woke up af­ter the plane touched down and when it did not stop the com­mo­tion started.

“Once they hit the bump where the spikes are at the end of the run­way and the tyres were blown out, the plane swerved to the right and I no­ticed the right wing was flap­ping and it broke off and the engine flipped over on it. Ev­ery­one was scream­ing, curs­ing, you name it. They were call­ing God and I don’t know who else they were call­ing but it was just crazy. I just wanted to get off the plane you know,” Bedessee ex­plained.

Af­ter the plane crashed into the fence and came to an abrupt stop, Bedessee said that the pi­lot an­nounced that they should evac­u­ate and with­out a sec­ond thought, as soon as the door opened, he said he ran for his life.

“I popped out and took off. I left ev­ery­thing and I ran as far as I can and when I looked back the plane was right at the edge and the nose was off the right. I ran and I ran as far as I can along with like 13 other peo­ple,” the man re­called, still vis­i­bly trau­ma­tised.

Shortly af­ter he made it to safety and the plane was evac­u­ated of most of the pas­sen­gers, he said smoke started em­a­nat­ing from it and this was quickly ad­dressed by the Guyana Fire Ser­vice.

Shak­ing

De­spite his or­deal oc­cur­ring sev­eral hours be­fore he spoke with Stabroek News, Bedessee said he was still trau­ma­tised and it was his first near death ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I’m still shak­ing, I’m still ner­vous. I still get goose bumps go­ing on and it’s my first near death ex­pe­ri­ence. My fa­ther passed away last year and I guess he’s watch­ing over us and prob­a­bly said he’s not ready to see me. I’m just taking deeps breaths. I didn’t sleep all night and I don’t think I can at all,” he said.

Bedessee, who is a vice pres­i­dent of Bedessee Im­ports Lim­ited in Canada, said he also left his carry-on lug­gage, which was ei­ther lost or stolen. The bag con­tained over US$1,000, an iPhone 6, charg­ers, a bat­tery pack, ear­buds and other valu­able items.

Other pas­sen­gers and crew mem­bers have also com­plained about miss­ing items from their carry-on and af­ter the plane was evac­u­ated. The Guyana Po­lice Force has since con­firmed that it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing a re­port of al­leged lar­ceny and that sev­eral fire­men from the Guyana Fire Ser­vice are as­sist­ing with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Af­ter the plane was evac­u­ated, the pas­sen­gers were taken to the ter­mi­nal, and at that point, Bedessee re­called, ev­ery­one was con­fused and did not un­der­stand what ex­actly was go­ing on. About an hour later, they were taken to the check in sec­tion where Fly Ja­maica staff were taking their con­tact de­tails.

In terms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the staff to the pas­sen­gers, Bedessee ex­plained that he was dis­ap­pointed since “they didn’t know how to cope I guess or han­dle the sit­u­a­tion.” He said he and other pas­sen­gers were hardly given any rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion on what hap­pened and what their next step was.

It wasn’t un­til hours af­ter the in­ci­dent that they were told that they could leave and the air­line would make con­tact with them when­ever they have in­for­ma­tion.

“The com­mu­ni­ca­tion was not the best be­cause no­body knew any­thing. They kept say­ing to wait for man­age­ment and didn’t give us any kind of no­tice to go get a taxi or to go to a ho­tel. We were just stranded there for more than an hour,” he said.

Min­is­ter within the Min­istry of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture An­nette Fer­gu­son said that pas­sen­gers were all taken to a hold­ing fa­cil­ity at the CJIA, the op­er­a­tor took all their in­for­ma­tion and made pro­vi­sions for them to be trans­ported to their re­spec­tive homes or ho­tels.

She also noted that some of the pas­sen­gers would be ac­com­mo­dated on Caribbean Air­lines (CAL) flights as soon as ar­range­ments were fi­nalised. Flights are ex­pected to start to­day.

Among the pas­sen­gers who suf­fered in­juries was Daveanand Sukhram, who re­lated that he suf­fered mi­nor in­juries to his neck, hands, shoul­ders and feet af­ter be­ing hit with a door that fell from an over­head com­part­ment, and he was squeezed while try­ing to exit the plane. He also noted that they had to walk more than a mile to reach the ter­mi­nal.

The in­jured also in­cluded 58year-old Jan­ice Adams and 68year-old Bebi Ali, who suf­fered mi­nor in­juries to their feet and neck.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port on the Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (CBC) web­site, Rabina Roop­nar­ine got a call from her mother, Bebe Ali, who was among those on the plane. Ali, a res­i­dent of Toronto, flew to Georgetown two weeks ago for her brother’s fu­neral. She was sup­posed to land at Pear­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Toronto yes­ter­day.

Ali, CBC said, used a flight at­ten­dant’s cell­phone to con­tact her daugh­ter from the hospi­tal shortly af­ter the crash land­ing. Roop­nar­ine said she was told the plane was filled with smoke and pas­sen­gers were try­ing to force their way off.

Ali, the re­port said, in­jured her neck and back slid­ing down the emer­gency chute, her daugh­ter said.

“She just wants to come home,” Roop­nar­ine said.

The in­jured pas­sen­gers all had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences and said they were scared for their lives and that it was an ex­pe­ri­ence that they never want to have again. Some stated that they will be look­ing for com­pen­sa­tion.

They thanked God and the pi­lots for pre­vent­ing the plane from run­ning off of the run­way.

A photo of the plane taken by In­vor Bedessee af­ter the crash land­ing. It shows smoke em­a­nat­ing from the left side of the plane, while dam­age to the right side of the engine and the wing can also be seen.

In­vor Bedessee

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