Approximately 300 houses belonging to squatters, especially on the northern section of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) are pending removal in the wake of the Caribbean Airlines Limited aircraft flight BW523 crash Saturday last.
This was announced by CJIA Chief Executive Officer, Ramesh Ghir at a press conference at the airport yesterday.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon had also recently noted that the most preliminary observation about interventions at the airport suggests that aggressive action is needed to remove the squatters who are directly in the path of the extended runway.
One of the engines being dismantled yesterday.
However, Ghir said that a meeting is being planned this coming week to definitively address the squatting situation at the country’s only international airport.
He said, previously, meetings were held with the squatters and they were told of the safety and security risks they face while squatting around the perimeter of the airport.
Meanwhile, investigations are continuing into the cause of the crash and Ghir noted that the engines of the US$38M aircraft are being removed along with other parts of the plane.
These parts will eventually be handed over to Caribbean Airlines.
Beyond the acknowledgement that the plane overran the runway, there is not much that the government is saying, as the local Civil Aviation Authority is working with regional and international experts to determine what went wrong.
Initial Report and Response
According to the airport’s Chief Executive Officer, the established procedures were used after the aircraft ran off the runway.
Since 2004 there were seven simulated emergency exercises which were carried out at the CJIA to cater for such eventualities.
In disclosing the report of activities and responses by CJIAC and related agencies immediately following the accident, Ghir said that on 30th July 2011, the flight originated from JFK International Airport, and in-transited in Port of Spain, onwards to the CJIA.
Onboard were 154 passengers, including one infant and six crew members.
The aircraft overshot the runway and crashed after it landed causing severe damage, and injury to some of the passengers.
Ghir said that at 01:33 hours, the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) informed the Airport Duty Officer (ADO) that the BW523 had landed and gone over the end of Runway 06.
“On receipt of the call from the Control Tower, the ADO activated the emergency plan by calling the Chief Executive Officer at 1:34 hrs; Deputy Manager Airport Operations at 1:34 (No Answer); Senior Aerodrome Officer at 1:35; Deputy Manager Airport Operations at 1:36hrs; GDF Ops at 1:37 (No Answer); Timehri Police at 1:37 (Already Informed); Port Health at 1:38 (Already Informed); GPHC at 1:39 (No Answer);Immigration at 1:40 hrs; Customs at 1:40 hrs; CAL at 1:41(Already Informed),” Ghir explained.
Underscoring that concurrently, the Air Traffic Controller placed calls to Aerodrome Fire Service; Rescue Coordination Centre and the Aircraft Operator, Ghir said that these calls were made in accordance with the established procedures in the Airport Emergency Plan.
He said that after being advised of the accident by Air Traffic Control, Aerodrome Fire Service responded to the crash site within three minutes with three fire tenders at the end of Runway 06, providing lighting to the accident scene and to respond to any possible fire.
Upon observing the passengers exiting the aircraft via the wings and emergency chute, some fire officers made their way down the 20ft slope and rendered assistance to the passengers.
“The Aerodrome Fire Service Station Officer explained that the left engine was smoking and they sprayed foam on it to prevent a fire. Also assisting passengers at this time were Red Caps and Airport Ramp Attendants who had previously been trained in emergency response exercises. The aircraft was cleared of all passengers by 01:38 hours except for the Captain and First Officer who later deplaned with assistance from the Aerodrome Fire Service,” Ghir said.
Ghir noted that himself along with Minister Robeson Benn arrived at the crash site at 02:15 hrs and was briefed by the Senior Aerodrome Officer. At this time there were no passengers at the crash site except for the Flight Crew. In addition, at 02:25 President Jagdeo arrived at the Terminal Building and met with passengers.
Medical Services and Care Rendered
Underscoring that an established Care Area at 02:15 in the Arrival Immigration Area (Port Health Office) was available, Ghir said approximately 31 persons were attended to at this facility with most of the passengers suffering from shock and minor injuries. There were about four passengers who suffered serious injuries to their limbs. They were subsequently transported to and admitted in hospital.
In addition, four doctors along with three ambulances arrived at the airport at approximately 03:00 hrs and immediately assisted the remaining passengers.
He said senior government officials present at the scene included the Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Chief of Staff, Commodore Gary Best and his senior officers, Commissioner of Police Henry Greene and his senior officers, Chairman and other senior officers of CJIA, Director General and Senior Officers of GCAA and representatives of the Civil Defense Commission.
However, following a meeting, a decision was taken to conduct a detailed inspection and assessment at first light to determine when the airport will be reopened and what restrictions will apply, given that the tail of the aircraft was creating an obstruction along the flight path.
He said that during the closure of Runway 06/24, Runway 11/29 was used to process light Aircraft such as the Dash-8 and smaller. Landing and take-offs were done using this runway. Runway 06/24 was re-opened at 11:30 hours on Saturday 30th after notice was given that the operational length of the runway was being reduced to 7,000 feet.
Commenting on taxi drivers taking money from persons who were being rescued from the crash, Ghir said an internal investigation is to be carried on breaches of any regulation at the airport and sanctions will be implemented accordingly. However, at present one taxi driver has been suspended indefinitely.