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Cheddi Jagan airport boss clears air: All systems in place after crash

Monday, August 8, 2011
CJIA CEO Ramesh Ghir addresses the media at a press conference. Looking on are Senior Aerodrome Officer Alvin Majeed, left, and PR consultant,Tagman Media Inc, Alex Graham.

Georgetown—The Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation (CJIAC) held a press conference on Saturday at which its chief executive officer Ramesh Ghir highlighted the first response of the airport’s senior managers, Guyana Defence Force, Guyana Police Force (Timehri) and health personnel to the Caribbean Airlines Flight BW 523 accident which occurred on July 30 at 1.32 am. The flight originated from the JFK International Airport and transited in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, before proceeding to Guyana. There were 154 passengers, one infant and six crew members.

Ghir outlined that at 1.33 am the air traffic controller notified the airport duty officer about the accident and at 1.34 am to 1.41 am proceeded to activate the emergency plan by establishing contact with people, including the CEO, deputy manager of airport operations, senior aerodrome officer, GDF Ops, Timehri police, port health, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), Caribbean Airlines Limited, off-duty airport operations, maintenance staff, aerodrome fire service, rescue co-ordination centre and the aircraft operator. He emphasised that the calls were made in accordance with the established procedures in the Airport Emergency Plan.

The ramp attendants, who were awaiting the arrival of the aircraft, witnessed the incident and proceeded toward the crash site. The CEO noted that the aerodrome’s fire service responded to the crash site within three minutes with three fire tenders and were positioned to provide lighting to the scene, respond to any fire and also give assistance to passengers exiting the aircraft via the wings and emergency chute. Foam was sprayed on the left engine since it was observed that it was smoking. He stated that when this was done, the senior aerodrome officer along with members of the GPF commenced the formation of the inner cordon around the aircraft; and following this the GDF established the outer security cordon.

Ghir said while these activities were being carried out, several vehicles from the airport and nearby community began arriving at the scene and were used to transport passengers to the terminal. At 2.20 am, the senior aerodrome officer advised the manager of the air traffic services to close the runway which was later reopened at 11.30 am for international flights on the primary runway. As it relates to the healthcare services delivered, Ghir said the Port Health Officer attended to 31 people, in the Arrival Immigration Area, most of who were suffering from shock and minor injuries. He added that the four passengers who were seriously injured were transported to the GPHC where they were admitted.

In light of the incident, Caribbean Airlines representatives, inspectors from Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname Civil Aviation Authority are in Guyana, participating in the investigation which is being led by the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority’s chief investigator, Paula McLennon. Also, officials from the Aviation Authority from Barbados and Jamaica have been in constant contact with their Guyanese counterparts to assist in technical co-operation. Additional inspectors from CASSOS and a team from the United States of America’s National Safety Transportation Board are also engaged in the investigation. Work is ongoing to hand over the aircraft to Caribbean Airlines.

During the press conference, Ghir also responded to questions concerning claims that taxi drivers were charging high fares to transport people from the crash site to the terminal, efficiency of the airport’s equipment and squatters residing in close proximity to the area. Ghir noted that thus far, one taxi driver was found to have erred and has been suspended. As it relates to the adequate and efficient functioning of the airport, Ghir confirmed that all the equipment was in working order and the runway was up to international standards. He emphasised that CJIA had a track record where there had never been an incident of this nature. With regards to the squatters living near the runway, Ghir said an internal meeting would be held this week where this issue would be looked at. He said several meeting had been held with the squatters about their relocation since many of them were occupying CJIA’s land.

(Story and photos courtesy Guyana’s Government Information Agency (GINA).


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