In addition to the accident investigation being conducted by the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) into the November 9th crash landing by a Fly Jamaica Airlines plane at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri, a team comprising mainly international experts is also conducting an independent probe, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson said on Monday.
Patterson, who made the disclosure during a statement to the National Assembly, also provided preliminary findings, which included the fact that the pilot at no point declared that there was an emergency.
Toronto, Canada-bound Fly Jamaica flight OJ 256 returned to CJIA after experiencing hydraulic issues but crash landed. Ten passengers were taken to the hospital soon after. An eleventh person, Rookhia Kalloo, 86, was subsequently hospitalised with a fractured skull several days later and died.
Patterson, in his statement to the National Assembly, said an independent investigation is ongoing and it entails the examination of the aircraft and its operation on the morning of the accident as well as a review of the Standard Operating Procedures.
He added that this investigation is being conducted by representatives of the GCAA, acting on behalf of the state of occurrence, the US National Transportation Safety Board, acting on behalf of the state of registry, and two Boeing commercial airlines engineers representing the manufacturers.
Additionally, he said the Canadian Transportation and Safety Board and the South American Region of Accident Investigation have been invited to provide technical assistance to the GCAA.
He said the aircraft has been officially handed over to the operators for removal but remains under the control of the accident investigation unit of GCAA.
In providing the preliminary findings, Patterson informed that the plane was scheduled to depart at 1.30 am. Prior to departure, he said, a problem developed with the forward left passenger door, but this problem was subsequently fixed by the airline maintenance personnel.
He said the flight eventually departed Guyana at 2.10 am. At approximately 2.21 am, he said, the pilot reported a hydraulics issue with the aircraft to the air traffic controller and requested to return to CJIA.
“The pilot did not declare an emergency,” Patterson stressed before adding that following the request both the Aerodrome Fire Service and the Airport Duty Manager were informed of the flight’s return by the controller and placed on standby. Fire service officials were on standby at 2.27 am with crash tenders, while the Airport Duty Officers proceeded to await the aircraft’s arrival at 2.45am.
Patterson said based on the preliminary report submitted by the Air Operations Division at CJIA, he was informed that on landing, the fire service officials observed the aircraft proceeding west towards the Runway 24 intersection and onto the northeast extension area. He said it was reported that during the landing at 2.53 am, all the aircraft’s landing gear were observed down.
On landing, he said, the aircraft proceeded northeasterly along the runway “however, as the aircraft crossed the runway, I am further informed that the left main gear hit and destroyed a pair of portable threshold lamps that were deployed in the areas.”
He said the aircraft proceeded onto the extended portion of the runway and the left main gear overran the eastern edge of the extension area before coming to a stop.
He added that officers then proceeded to the aircraft and commenced the evacuation of the passengers, while the air and duty officers coordinated transportation of the passengers to the Departure Lounge.
He explained that upon the evacuation of the plane, a total of ten passengers were taken to the Diamond Hospital with the assistance of the CJIA ambulance and other vehicles, while the other passengers were examined at the airport.
According to Patterson, Air Traffic Service activated its emergency procedures, notifying, among others, the Director General of the GCAA and the Aircraft Accident Investigators. The aerodrome was immediately closed upon the landing of the aircraft but was reopened at 6.10 am following an inspection to determine the safety of continued operation.
Police ranks as well as the Guyana Defence Force ranks, he said, arrived shortly after the accident and were on the scene doing a preliminary investigation along with the GCAA team conducting the aircraft accident investigation.
GCAA, he said, will be managing the investigation. He also noted that investigations remain ongoing regarding any mechanical issues with the aircraft.
He said, too, that soon after the crash, the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority and the National Transportation Safety Board of United States were notified.
Further, Patterson told the House that his ministry requested an investigation into reports of missing items belonging to passengers. “The ministry in no way condones the reported action and behaviour of the fire service officers on the morning of this accident,” he said.
Fire Chief Marlon Gentle had said that 12 firemen were arrested by the police after a report was made to the police of personal belongings going missing. During that preliminary investigation, one officer came forward with some of the stolen items, which prompted further investigations.
Among the items reportedly stolen were travel documents, cellphones, jewellery and money.
All of the accused persons have been released on station bail while investigators await legal advice.
Patterson used his address to apologise to all passengers for having to “endure this experience” and he also expressed condolences to the family of the passenger who died.
“I wish to personally assure all passengers that my ministry remains committed to working along with the authorities of CJIA [and] GCAA, specifically the airline operators, in meeting all required obligations and reviewing all claims and compensation mechanisms to ensure that the welfare of passengers remain top priority,” he added.