There was an increase in the number of aviation accidents over the last year and the reports on some of these cases are still to be completed as the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) awaits the result of the analyses of plane engines sent overseas.
Observers have voiced concern that the reports for these are not completed swiftly enough. Some have said too that in addition to there being more air activity in the country’s hinterland and at the newly designated Ogle International Airport, there are not enough trained personnel in air safety regulations.
The GCAA, however, says that while investigations from the local end are done in a timely manner, many of the reports are not closed because it may take years sometimes before it receives the findings of evaluations of plane engines that have been sent overseas.
While in the past the GCAA kept completed reports from the public, Minister of Transport Robeson Benn has ordered that they should be released as soon as they have been completed and filed. To assist with investigations at the GCAA, Benn has also employed former GCAA Deputy Director Paula McAdam, who retired last year. She brings with her a wealth of experience as she was the Director of Aviation Safety Regulation at the GCAA and had served the aviation industry here for over 30 years.
Stabroek News has compiled a list of all the accidents and incidents from the beginning of last year to present and the status of the investigations of these. According to the GCAA’s definitions, an “accident” is an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight until such time as all such persons have disembarked and in which a person is fatally or seriously injured, the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure and the aircraft is missing or is completely inaccessible.
An “incident” is defined as an occurrence, other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft which affects or could affect the safety of the operation.
A “serious incident,” meanwhile, is an incident involving circumstances indicating that there was a high probability of an incident, while a “serious injury,” is an injury which is sustained by a person in an accident which requires hospitalisation for more than 48 hours, results in a fracture of any bone with the exception of simple fractures of phalanges or the nose, or if the injury involves lacerations which cause severe haemorrhage, nerve and muscle or tendon damage.
Up to March of 2013, there were no reports of accidents and incidents. However, two persons died in April when the first accident occurred. On the morning of April 13, a Piper Aztec, owned and piloted by American Pierre Angiel, crashed into the home of Florence Tyndall, at Sparendaam East Coast Demerara, shortly after take-off from the Ogle Airport. Angiel and his lone passenger, Canadian scientist Nick Dmitriev, died instantly.
Tyndall, 69, managed to escape death but her home was reduced to ashes as a consequence of the accident. However, it is currently being rebuilt by the Ministry of Transport at a cost in excess of $10M after Benn lived up to the promise that he made last year that her home would be rebuilt.
The GCAA report on this accident is still in progress and Head of the Civil Aviation Authority Zulficar Mohamed explained that the delay in completion of the report was owing to the fact that the engine had to be sent overseas for evaluation, as in most cases. It is a time-consuming process because of the intricate and rigorous analysis involved.
Stabroek News was also told that most of the plane engines that are sent overseas for analysis are subject to long waits for evaluation because there is a backlog of cases at the centre where they are sent, in addition to the detailed scrutiny involved in the process. Mohamed said that aspects of the investigations are not within the GCAA’s control but that he understood that the rigorous process was needed for accurate findings.
The next accident occurred on June 12, at Ekereku in Region Seven, when Raquel Joseph was decapitated after she ran into the propeller of a Cessna aircraft from which she had shortly before disembarked. The aircraft was at the time offloading with its engine running, and it was reported that Joseph was running back to the plane to retrieve a forgotten bag when she ran into the plane’s propeller. The GCAA investigation on this case is closed and its report completed.
Next, on July 15, a Cessna, owned by Air Services Limited, crashed at Matthew’s Ridge. The plane was said to have come into contact with trees about one mile from the runway, which was foggy at the time of the accident. Thirteen persons were injured: the Captain Feriel Ally, Lloyd Thomas, Aluna Massay, Ulan Benjamin, Clinton Campbell, Troy Henry, Wesley Johnson, Nalinie Delon, Dexter Benjamin, Sheldon Williams,
Hermila Rajesh and Esther Williams.
Although compensation packages, ranging from $150,000 to $600,000, have been paid out, the official investigation is still in progress. Benn had told Stabroek News that the investigation could take up to a year to complete, while noting that the standard operating procedures were being observed.
On November 1, at Wakenaam, a Cessna owned by Brazilian Paulo Jose Assis De Souza, veered off the side of the runway during landing and flipped over. There were no injuries. The GCAA has closed the investigation and its report is completed. However, it is unclear if the pilot was found to be at fault for the plane straying off course and what, if any, penalties were applied.
On November 9, there was the report of a serious incident as a Cessna, owned by Air Services Limited, ran off the side of a runway as the pilot has swerved to avoid hitting a person on the runway as it was about to land at the Kwakwani Airstrip. No one was injured. The report is closed as it was determined that the pilot had swerved the plane to avoid another serious incident or possible accident.
There were no other reports for 2013.
On January 11, 2014, a Cessna owned by Fenix Airways Inc ran off the left shoulder of the runway during take-off at the Ogle International Airport and turned turtle.
Shamica Monroe, who was five months pregnant, was the only passenger who had to be hospitalised for the injuries she received. She was discharged two days later.
Passengers on the flight have complained that the pilot was texting during takeoff and suggested that the fact he was distracted caused the accident. The pilot has denied the allegations of texting and one investigator told Stabroek News that it would be difficult determining the accuracy of events as when checks were made it was found that even from the vantage point of the nearest passenger to the pilot, it would be impossible to see if the pilot was texting. The investigator said that the pilot had indicated that he had taken his phone out of his pocket upon entering the plane in order to put it away so that it wouldn’t be crushed.
The GCAA has indicated that the investigations are still ongoing but would be completed shortly.
One week after the accident, Pilot Blake Slater and Cargo Handler Dwayne Newton-Jacobs both perished when a Trans Guyana Airways Cessna crashed in the jungle shortly after take-off, two miles south of Olive Creek in Region Seven. It was around 10.55 am, shortly after the plane’s take-off from the airstrip that a distress call was received from the pilot. There have been reports that the plane might have been overloaded, although Trans Guyana has denied this. Another said that the cargo shifted. At the time the plane was transporting mining supplies and fuel drums from Olive Creek to Imbaimadai.
The engine of the plane was sent overseas for analysis and investigations are still continuing. This investigation could take up two years before a finding is released. It is unclear if there has been any compensation paid to the families of the deceased as Slater has no family in Guyana and Newton’s relatives requested privacy.
On March 18, a Piper aircraft, owned and piloted by Bernard Singh and transporting three passengers, Troy Daniels, Leon Bristol, 24, and Ivor Williams, took off from the Arau airstrip in Region Seven, but crashed. The GCAA said that the plane experienced engine problems and the pilot was trying to return when the crash occurred. The engine from that plane will soon be sent to the United States for analysis.
There were two reported incidents for the year: one when the left passenger door of a BN Islander plane was observed moving in flight but subsequently closed; and the other when the tail tie-down ring of an aircraft broke on impact with the runway during a training landing. The incidents were filed with GCAA as is required and those reports have been completed.