No fatalities as Caribbean Airlines craft crashes in Guyana
– Trinidad Prime Minister flies in
“It’s an absolute miracle what happened here in Georgetown.”
Those words by Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) Chairman George Nicholas summed up the outcome of a plane crash with 151 passengers and six crew members that saw no fatalities and only two cases of serious injury.
The Airline was not immediately prepared to say what caused the crash. Caribbean Airlines disclosed that the pilot who was commanding the aircraft at the time has been flying to Guyana for the past 25 years.
Trinidad’s Prime Minister Kamla-Persad Bissessar is flying into Guyana to assess the situation. Caribbean Airlines is owned by the Trinidad and Tobago government.
The United States National Transportation Safety Board and Guyana’s Civil Aviation Authority will be probing the crash that occurred at around 01:32hrs on Saturday.
Local Army and Police have secured the scene of the crash as they await the retrieval of the black box and voice data recorder.
The aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, ran off the runway and broke into two. It was acquired by the company in 2007 at a cost of US$38 million.
The accident affected all flights coming into Guyana for a few hours, but the airport is operating as per normal again.
The Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, is the country’s only international airport.
The flight was # BW523, en route from Port of Spain, Trinidad to Georgetown. It had originally left JFK in Trinidad.
“Caribbean Airlines immediately activated its emergency response programme and is in direct contact with the relevant authorities. The airline’s primary concern at this time is for those on board the aircraft and their families,” CAL said in a statement.
Nicholas said Caribbean Airlines is putting together a team of psychologists and other health personnel to counsel passengers and crew members.
Most of the injured were treated at the Diamond Diagnostic Hospital before being taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. The Georgetown Hospital has so far treated 35 persons.
Immediately the authorities summoned ambulances from the various health institutions in and around Georgetown, some coming from as far as West Demerara.
Initial reports suggest that the pilot landed far down the runway and could not stop in time.
Trinidad immediately flew in another craft which landed and was ready to fly out the more seriously injured.
One woman passenger said that she heard a loud sound when the plane landed. She said that everyone, including herself began screaming. “It was terror,” she said. “I was praying to Jesus.”
She said that she was sitting near the emergency exit with her husband, who opened the emergency door and passengers began exiting the plane. She was complaining of pains to the stomach, which were inflicted by her seatbelt when she was flung forward.
Kaieteur News also spoke to an overseas-based Guyanese, whose wife suffered neck and back injuries. The couple is here on a two-week vacation.
Most of the passengers fled the wrecked plane without their luggage.