Tourism in region could be affected by plane crash — PM

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago: As investigations continue into the crash landing of a Caribbean Airlines (CAL) plane at the airport in Guyana last Saturday, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the accident that resulted in the aircraft breaking in two could have a negative impact on travel to the region.

Persad-Bissessar made her remarks in Guyana, where she travelled to get a firsthand look at the crashed Boeing 737-800 plane which CAL, Trinidad and Tobago’s national carrier, bought four years ago.

“It would not just be Caribbean Airlines, it may affect tourism visitors to the CARICOM nations and to the areas that Caribbean Airlines serves,” she said. “We would have to assess that impact and do such damage control as we can.”

However, during a press conference on her return to Trinidad last Sunday, the Prime Minister said CAL’s safety record was still intact.

“Caribbean Airlines, formerly BWIA, has maintained its track record of safety because so far there have been no fatalities,” Persad-Bissessar said. “Thank God for his mercies in allowing Caribbean Airlines to continue with that track record for safety.”

CAL Chairman George Nicholas added that the airline would get past Saturday’s accident and continue with business as usual.

“We will bounce back,” he said.

Investigators from the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board and the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority are assisting the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority in the crash probe.

Heavy rain and fog, resulting in poor visibility, have been blamed for the accident that occurred at 1:32 a.m. on Saturday when Flight BW523 overshot the runway at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and broke in two. It landed in the gully on the northern side of the airstrip, close to a ravine.

Most of the 163 passengers and crew members on board were seen by a team of doctors and nurses on the scene before being shuttled to nearby hospitals and clinics, with the more serious being taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

Four were admitted to hospital while others were treated and released. The most serious injuries were broken limbs.

Both Persad-Bissessar and Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo said it was a miracle that there were no fatalities or more serious injuries.

Meanwhile, acting CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite has expressed “deep concern” about the crash and has wished the injured a full and speedy recovery.

“The Community…is greatly relieved that there has been no loss of life,” she said in a statement over the weekend. “The Community commends the authorities in Guyana and the airline for their swift response to the crisis which ensured the safe evacuation of all passengers and crew.”

Ambassador Applewhaite said CARICOM looked forward to the results of the investigation, “with the expectation that it would assist in ensuring no recurrence of such an incident”.

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