Tag Archive: plane crash


Aviation officials investigating the crash of Caribbean Airlines BW 523 that broke in two last Saturday morning after landing rather precariously at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana have released some preliminary findings.

Accordingly, it seems that the crash that saw some 4 persons hospitalized was due solely to the errors of the pilot(s) in command of the aircraft that was carrying some 162 persons, mostly Guyanese returning from the USA.

Readers will recall that after the crash I posted an article in which one of the passengers, Michael Nedd, said that in his opinion the problem was caused by the plane running out of runway. He believed that the pilots landed the plane in the middle of the airport. Interestingly, that is precisely what the officials have found out in their investigations so far. It is also interesting to note that although the pilot of the destroyed carrier had said that poor visibility and the hazardous condition of the airport was to blame, the investigators have decisively rejected those conditions as factors causing the mishap.

Was this the first time that the pilot in question was landing at Guyana at that time? Could it be that after flying from New York the cockpit crew was overworked and lacked sleep? Was the pilot otherwise distracted by undisclosed cockpit events? These are questions that the officials will most likely put to the crew of flight 523.

Both heads of government of Guyana and Trinidad, where the airline is headquartered, have issued statements to the effect that it was a “miracle no loss of lives” resulted from the incident.

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Please note: It’s now 30 Years.

Today marks exactly twenty-five (25) years since Vincentians at home and abroad were plunged into their most horrifically tragic air disaster in the history of commercial air flight in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

It was on August 3, 1986, that LIAT flight 319 disappeared while attempting to land at the Arnos Vale airport (now renamed The ET Joshua Airport). While all incidents that result in loss of lives are tragic, the untimely deaths of the thirteen souls on board were particularly stinging to all sections of the Vincentian society. That single flight not only  combined a unique mix of some of the most progressive nation builders in our country at the time, but also brought  grief to our regional and international territorial relatives.

Quite possibly the first face that comes to the minds of those of us who were around twenty-five years ago and now recall that stormy Sunday night, is that of Donna Young. Donna epitomized the youthful beauty, charm, female empowerment and potential of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Donna was a bank worker, employed with Barclay’s bank. She had just turned age twenty and was coming back from a holiday trip to America. Donna had won the Miss SVG and Miss Carival shows right here at home in St Vincent in the year 1984. Donna Young also held the Miss OECS title as well. Her smile lit up the stage like no other. One could not help but love Donna Young. To fully appreciate the connection that the Vincentian public had with Donna Young, think of her as the late Princess Diana of the UK or of President John F. Kennedy (JFK) of the United States of America.. Indeed, Donna was our own Vincentian Princess. She was royal.

Donna Young

Donna Young

Also on that ill-fated flight was a watchmaker who was physically challenged. Imagine a gentleman in his wheel chair and is out and about daily taking orders and repairing watches. That was the fortitude of Robert Fraser, who was born with no legs. Disability was never going to be his inability! Robert Fraser was on the flight, coming back home from a seminar in St Lucia that focused on persons like himself who could not walk or had other physical challenges.

IMG_20140804_122553Then there was a family of husband, wife and eight-year-old son who perished that August night. Again, it is expected that everybody’s death will be mourned, but, alas, this was not the average Vincentian family. At just seven years into its political independence from Great Britain, St Vincent and the Grenadines was unfortunate to lose its political opposition leader and two members of his family. Hudson Tannis, along with his wife and son, Ordway,  were returning from a wedding in St Lucia and happened to be aboard  flight 319. Hudson Tannis was also the former Deputy Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines during the Labour Party government of Milton Cato.

The Grenadines also felt the loss of lives because a native of Bequia, a female passenger listed as Alida Ollivierre, was returning home for her friend’s wedding. She was actually traveling on flight 319 with the bridegroom, Rufus Nelson, a Dominican.

Other passengers on the doomed flight included Busta Lockhart, a Vincentian who was on his way back from cutting cane in Canada. Another Vincentian passenger on board was Ruth Babb. The remaining passengers were two Italians. So, of the  thirteen persons on the plane, eight of them were Vincentians.

L-R: Hudson Tannis, his son Ordway, and his wife, Christine Tannis

L-R: Hudson Tannis, his son Ordway, and his wife, Christine Tannis

The aircraft was being piloted by two pilots, Phillip Roach of Guyana and Keith Hobbins of Jamaica. It has been said that the pilot captaining the flight, although he had been to SVG before, was now doing so as the pilot in command. Apparently, he had an idea where the runway was. Unfortunately, owing to the mountainous terrain of the country, the airport is right next to the Caribbean Sea. Because of the rainfall that night, the place was foggy. Visibility would have been extremely poor. Later, residents of Cane Garden will say that they heard the aircraft circling and then the sound of a sputtering engine. Liat flight 319 aborted the first landing attempt. It was during the second landing attempt that the plane disappeared.

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For days and weeks after, all able-bodied man, woman and child, took to the sea and shore to do what they could to find any signs of remains. Apart from a sighting of some floating oil, the remnants of that plane was never to be seen again. At least up to this day. It is said that the waters in the Grenadines are among some of the deepest in the hemisphere, measuring between 180 to 1000 feet. Along with our local coast guard, there were other coast guard ships from Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezeula, and Barbados.

In addition to all those boat searches, The Trinidad and Tobago government sent a helicopter, and the USA sent an aeroplane to participate in an aerial search and rescue effort.

The following weekend one of the largest and most sombre memorial services was held at the Victoria Park, where everybody who is anybody in St Vincent turned out to sympathize with a grieving nation. Saturday August 9, 1986, and Sunday August 10, were declared official days of mourning and flags were flown at half mast across the country.

Prime Minister of SVG, James Mitchell, at the memorial service for flight 319 passengers at the Victoria Park on Sunday August 10, 1986

Prime Minister of SVG, James Mitchell, at the memorial service for flight 319 passengers at the Victoria Park on Sunday August 10, 1986

This is the last recorded air mishap that LIAT has had which had a direct impact on Vincentians.

I hope that our younger generation will at least take a moment today and pause in reflection of the wealth of human and Vincentian potential that we all lost that night. One cannot help but feel that somehow our lives in St Vincent would have been that much richer as a result of the contributions made by the “unlucky 13” of LIAT flight 319, back on August 3, 1986.

May their souls enjoy eternal bliss.

The Caribbean Airlines Aircraft Broke in Two after a Hard Landing

According to Michael Nedd, one of the 162 persons on board the BW flight 523 of Caribbean Airlines that crashed in Guyana earlier this morning, the airplane hit the runway very hard and passengers began screaming after their heads were repeatedly being banged against their head rests. He said that there was little or no time to prepare for the crash; the cockpit crew did not issue any announcements or warnings before the crash.

After the passengers got an emergency door opened they jumped outside in a state of pandemonium. Mr Nedd indicates that when they got outside of the plane that had broken in two, there were no persons from Guyana or the airport to assist them. Mr Nedd said he called his son, who worked at the same airport where the incident happened. He said his son clearly told him that no one at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport  knew that the plane had overshot the runway and had broken in two.

Apparently, it took an unusually long  time for assistance to arrive. Only one passenger, a man with a broken leg, will be kept in the hospital while the others with minor injuries are being released. The majority of the passengers were Guyanese born, American nationals. The flight had originated from New York.

One of the concern now is for the provision of counselling services for the survivors. Guyana, apparently, does not have the human resources, apart from social workers, to provide that service.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Airlines are refuting claims that the incident is being  reported as a crash; they claim that it was an overshooting of the runway and not a crash. The Airline is issuing the clarification in hopes of alerting the public that its safety record has not been tainted by this incident. However, Mr Nedd says that the plane landed in the middle of the runway and so there was just not enough space for the plane to safely come to a stop.

There will be more posts as information comes to hand.

While it is not completely unheard of, commercial air carriers crashing in the Caribbean is a relatively rare occurrence. However, people around the Caribbean are waking up this morning to the news that a plane carrying one hundred and sixty-two persons, inclusive of  8 crew members, came down amid torrential rains in Guyana at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport .

The crash happened about 1:30 am some three hours after its scheduled landing. The Caribbean Airlines craft broke in two after it shot past the runway because it couldn’t stop.

No lives were lost, although there were some resulting injuries such as the pilot’s broken leg.

Almost every year it is safe to say that the summer will not be complete without a commercial aircraft falling out of the sky somewhere in the world. I think that is so because the summer months are the unofficial “fly a plane” season. There have been reports from various aviation officials that often times pilots are overworked, and some even admitted falling asleep while thousands of miles above the earth.

In fact, the Air France plane that crashed in the Atlantic ocean in June 2009, just three hours into its eleven hour flight from Brazil to Paris, was at the time without its senior pilot in the cockpit. That is what the data recovered from the black boxes reveal. The captain had gone back in the cabin to sleep, apparently.

Readers of Ashford Daniel Writes will recall that I recently posted entries that dealt with  Caribbean Airlines and how its Trinidad government is greatly subsidizing its fuel for it to have a comparative advantage in the evolving Caribbean market; but even with a government hand out the Trinidad public was still grasping the available flights being offered by Redjet. Redjet is soon to commence operations to Trinidad and Tobago.

With the crash now of a Caribbean Airlines aircraft, exactly what impact will that have on the future demands for seats on Redjet and on Caribbean Airlines?

Officials in Trinidad will hold a press conference later this morning on this breaking news.

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