No Fatalities in Plane Crash

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Updated: November 17, 2017

Eleven passengers onboard a Tropic Air flight en route to Punta Gorda from Placencia were rescued from the sea this morning. The aircraft was taking off around 8:45 this morning when it struck an SUV that was at the end of the runway. The impact caused the pilot to lose airspeed and the aircraft veered into the sea. All passengers were safely removed from the water including Acting Prime Minister Patrick Faber along with Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development and Immigration Godwin Hulse. Dalila Ical has more details.

A routine flight from Placencia to Punta Gorda turned into a harrowing experience for passengers onboard a Tropic Air flight this morning.

As the small plane was taking off from the Placencia airstrip its left landing wheel made contact with an SUV that was on the road near the airstrip. The impact veered the plane into the sea. A couple that was at the airstrip to see some people off witnessed the incident.

Witness 1

“The first flight left they got off high, the second flight came in and this landing on went long but that one didn’t and cars kept coming around the corner and I said that plane is going to hit that vehicle and sure enough boom right there it hit it; the landing gear hit the van on the top of the roof.”

Witness 2

“We heard some rattling on the plane itself as it was continuing to fly and then it landed which appeared very safely in the water.”

The couple then rushed to the SUV and found two men inside. They described the state they were in after the impact.

Witness 1

“The passenger door was crushed in, the driver’s side we were able to get that door open and get him moved around but he was in shock. I went around and we tried to get the passenger door open, we finally got that open and got the passenger out and brought him right over here to sit him down in the shade, he was covered in blood and glass.”

Inside the plane were seven passengers including Acting Prime Minister Patrick Faber along with Minister Godwin Hulse. Tropic Air’s President John Grief III said four crew members were also on board.

John Grief III – Tropic Air’s President

“The subsequent loss of lift and airspeed caused the pilot to have to ditch in the ocean.”

Reporter

“How many passengers were on board?”

John Grief III – Tropic Air’s President

“It was a pilot and ten passengers three of which were Tropic Aircrew.”

Boats arrived shortly to rescue all eleven persons. No major injuries have been reported.

Witness 1

“It took a little bit but then eventually boats got out there and he belly landed the plane just perfectly, did a great landing and I think that is why there are no fatalities out there.”

When speaking with Grief, he stated that no vehicles should have been near the path of the airplane, so what went wrong? Eyewitnesses said one of two barriers that prevent vehicles from passing when aircrafts are landing or taking off did not go down.

Grief says the incident brings to light a hazard that has always concerned them.

John Grief III – Tropic Air’s President

“It’s always been a concerned and barriers were put there by the Belize Airport Authority and signage but the problem is that drivers ignore the situation sometimes and then this is what happens. Its the first time there’s been a loss of an aircraft as a result of vehicles crossing in front, vehicles have crossed in front of aircraft and either touched or come very close to touching. I frankly can’t recall either but it has been an issue in the past.”

The aircraft was almost completely submerged in the water and is a complete loss to the company.  Police and Civil Aviation personnel are investigating the incident. Tropic Air has also launched an investigation into the matter.

A release issued by Tropic Air states that the company in coordination with the Belize Airports Authority and the Belize Department of Civil Aviation are investigating how the vehicle passed in front of the departing aircraft and what measures need to be implemented immediately to prevent its reoccurrence. Tropic also noted that the incident was quote, “in no way a reflection of Tropic Air’s operational, maintenance or business practices”.