The Government of Guyana will no doubt have to reassess the resources and equipment available to deal with emergencies
Call it a paradox but as Caribbean airlines unveiled a new advertising campaign introducing its Next Generation aircraft in the Guyanese newspapers, the airline faced it most adverse test early on Saturday morning.
A fear that several disaster response persons had for years in Guyana was vividly reinforced on Saturday. It brought home the stark reality of how unprepared Guyana is for an emergency when the Caribbean Airlines aircraft from Port of Spain Trinidad crash landed at the CJIA.
Passengers reported that the aircraft came in to land and there were loud thuds as the aircraft overshot the runway and settled on an incline and roadway beyond the perimeter fence of the airport. It is an area of a rough dirt road with very few lights. All the passengers and crew were rescued with injuries ranging from broken bones to lacerations and bruises.
But it was the rescue operation that highlighted the deficiencies in response. While medical teams scurried to the airport and the Minister of Health mobilized a response team, the area from which the passengers had to be rescued was dark and rough.
Civil Aviation Authorities and the fire service had to work with the lights of the fire and police trucks to remove passengers and investigate the crash. It took some time to get lights and equipment to the area that is less than four hundred yards away from the check-in area at the CJIA. In the meantime it was a Torchlight Operation and even when a generator with lights came, it was garden flood lights.
The authorities attempted to secure the area and several army and police were summoned to the scene. Passengers however remarked that they had to walk for what seemed to be a long distance to get to medical assistance. Onlookers at the airport reported that the aircraft came in to land but moved past the viewing gallery and then vanished. It was a cell phone call from on the aircraft that alerted onlookers that the plane overshot the runway. They could not for several minutes ascertain exactly where the aircraft was, they did not see it take off again. It was a few minutes later that reality of what actually happened set in.
The authorities appeared to do what they could under conditions that prevailed. By daybreak the authorities were in a better position to use the daylight to get a more precise assessment of the crash.
Caribbean Airline officials and the NTSB (National Transportation and Safety Board) will continue to investigate the incident at CJIA, Timehri. The Government of Guyana will no doubt have to reassess the resources and equipment available to deal with emergencies