People still talk about the first plane crash top of the 1960s when a pilot crashed at Waterworks, and PanAm crash in 1965, followed much later by one of the Payne brothers and later, Len Kocen who owned the Shamrock cinema.
All that was in the long past until Sunday, October 7, 2012 shortly after 4.00 p.m. the news and reports out of Antigua inform that the pilot and a female passenger had died on a FlyMontserrat aircraft that crashed. Another female passenger after being reported as critically injured later died, with one male survivor, who since suffering from a broken leg, had soon returned to the UK.
The nine-seater plane crashed shortly after takeoff at VC Bird International Airport in Antigua around 4:16 p.m.
The VC Bird International was initially closed to the public, while residents were being urged to stay away from the area so that emergency personnel could carry out their work, but the airport reopened not long after.
The news reaching Montserrat almost immediately said that the FlyMontserrat plane lost altitude and plunged into the end of the runway. According to the Antigua Observer an eyewitness told that he had heard the engine of the aircraft rev before cutting out and knew “something had to be wrong.”
Fly Montserrat is owned by Montserrat Airways Ltd and its Managing Director issued a report the following day confirming the crash and giving the name only of the pilot Jason Forbes, stating that two of the three passengers had died. “Our thoughts and condolences are with the families and friends of those on board,” the release had stated. With much sadness and as residents and friends who were expecting their loved ones gathered at the John Osborne airport, the names of those who had died were soon circulated with photos of a Jamaican MSS school teacher Anya Duncan and the pilot.
On October 12, a preliminary report was issued on the crash (see: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/preliminary-report-on-flymontserrat-crash/) which stated: “Examination of the wreckage indicates that the number two (right-hand) engine was not producing power at the time of impact, and investigation of the fuel system feeding that engine found significant quantities of water.
Following failure of one of the two engines on the Islander aircraft, the failed engine’s propeller should be feathered, to reduce the drag produced. Following successful feathering, continued flight should be possible. Examination of the right-hand propeller showed that it was not in the feathered position.”
Much of the detailed information of the dead soon became available from the Antigua Observer on the following Tuesday. (See: http://www.antiguaobserver.com/heartbreak-of-crash-victims-loved-ones/)
Annya Duncan’s friends were eagerly awaiting her arrival at John Osborne Airport in Montserrat to treat her to a surprise 29th birthday party – but the Jamaica-born teacher never made it. The dead woman’s family said she and fiancé of two years, Ricardo Mars, had planned to tie the knot next year.
Annya according to her sister Sobrina said her younger sibling had been experiencing serious headaches in recent weeks and decided to visit a doctor in Antigua over the weekend. “The last thing she told me was that she was checking in and would let me know when she reached Montserrat,” cried Sobrina.
Annya was pinned inside the aircraft when it crashed and died on the scene.
Sandrama Poligadu, 57, got on a plane for the first time ever Sunday morning from her native Guyana to Antigua – before boarding flight 107 from Antigua to Montserrat to meet her daughter who is hospitalised with a complicated pregnancy. But she too never made it. She was anxiously headed to the emerald isle to meet her daughter Rajama Poligadu, her daughter’s partner Tristan Khan and their five-year-old daughter.
British visitor Michael Hudson, the lone survivor of the crash, remained in critical condition at Mount St John Medical Centre at press time.
As a mark of respect and in mourning, the Montserrat Secondary school (MSS) closed at 10 a.m. Monday to resume on schedule Tuesday. That evening teachers and students at the School, where Duncan taught integrated science and mathematics, held a candlelight vigil beginning at 6.00 p.m. at the institution. On the day before in the evening a well vigil was held at the Basketball courts at Brades.
On Monday morning the Minister of Education Colin Riley and education officials along with members of the Christian Council, including Father George Agger and Pastor Carl Hastings, spent the morning with teachers and students at the school, many visibly shaken and emotional over the tragedy.
Her sister Sobrina told the Antigua Observer what everyone say about Annya. “Annya was really sweet and everyone who knew her praised her for her humanitarianism.”
“She helped everyone; loved animals, plants and people. Her students in Montserrat adored her and when her contract expired earlier this year she accepted the offer to renew it even though we tried hard to persuade her to stay in Jamaica. She said she had to see the class through to CXCs next year,” Sobrina had said, confirmed by students and teachers at MSS alike.
The parents Coswell and Grace Duncan were “very hurt” and wanted people to remember Annya for her “selflessness.” They visited Antigua and Montserrat and have expressed the wish to have the full details of the crash investigated.
Forbes, who was piloting the plane when it crashed, was pinned in front of Annya. He died on the spot.
His death came a few hours after he and relatives ate and cheered together as they watched West Indies walk away with the Twenty/20 championships on Sunday.
Preliminary Crash Report
The preliminary report from the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) into the fatal plane crash on October 7 was issued one week later. It was released by the Governor’s Office who said: “The substantive investigation into the crash is ongoing. The Governor’s Office will immediately release further details to the public as they become available.”
The preliminary report – ECCAA No.7AC/1/99 shows that the pilot had Commander’s Flying Experience. He had flown 710 hours out of which 510 were on the type of aircraft. He had flown in the
last 28 days - 25 hours. Roughly, each segment of a flight ANU-MNI would be approximately 20 minutes (flying time).
The investigation revealed that, “Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft was observed to yaw to the right, and to cease climbing. The aircraft then descended rapidly, apparently out of control. The aircraft impacted the ground within the airport perimeter, right wingtip first and steeply banked to the right, at low forward speed. Ground marks and damage to the wing tips and nose indicate that the aircraft cart-wheeled before coming to rest erect. The fuselage forward of the wings was destroyed; there was comparatively less damage to the rear part of the aircraft.”
The report further stated: “The Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority began an investigation under the Antigua and Barbuda Civil Aviation Regulations 2004. In accordance with established international arrangements, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of the United Kingdom, representing the State of Design and Manufacture of the aircraft, and (through its registration in a British Overseas Territory) the State of Operator, appointed an Accredited Representative to participate in the investigation. The AAIB Accredited Representative is supported by an AAIB Advisor. Britten-Norman, the aircraft manufacturer, has been informed of the accident and has offered assistance. Air Safety Support International (ASSI)1, which performs regulatory oversight of the aircraft operator, has been informed of the accident and is cooperating with the investigation. Montserrat Airways Limited, the operator, is also cooperating with the investigation.”
FlyMontserrat Grounded following landing of its Tuesday morning flight from Antigua
As if Montserrat Airways Ltd. had not experienced enough aircraft problems since March 2011, one week following the fatal crash, the airline endured a further setback that caused its airline FlyMontserrat services to be halted. (see: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/another-flymontserrat-aircraft-faulty-landing-incident-in-montserrat/)
Shortly after this incident where the airline reported: “Flight 5M 2109 from Antigua with seven passengers, landed normally and decelerated along the runway…The pilot thought that he felt a minor vibration and as a precaution, he let the aircraft roll gently onto the grass, where the passengers disembarked,” a letter was sent to FlyMontserrat (Montserrat Airways Ltd.) to cease operations.
The letter from the ECCAA stated: “Your company’s recent safety record particularly the two previous incidents and one accident coupled with the accident which occurred on 7th October 2012 and today’s incident are cause for concern by the ECCAA.
“Under the circumstances the ECCAA has directed the relevant authorities in all OECS Member States
that fall under its jurisdiction to suspend the operations by your company (Montserrat Airlines Ltd./Fly
Montserrat) in their respective States until further notice.”
That effectively grounded FlyMontserrat’s aircrafts and Harris by Wednesday evening sent in this statement. “FlyMontserrat understands that its passengers are concerned and stresses that safety is its priority and is co-operating with the investigation teams to help find the cause of last week’s accident.
“In the meantime the airline is chartering aircraft from SVG Air and others to carry its passengers in as close to a normal schedule as possible. But due to a shortage of suitable back-up aircraft in the region some passengers’ flight times are having to be altered.”
Meanwhile information provided from access sources, arrangements are in place for SVG Air, the other Islander operators out of Montserrat, to meet the requirements to passengers who already had bookings with FlyMontserrat.