Prime Minister Bruce Golding has ordered an immediate investigation into the breach of security that took place at the Sangster International Airport, in Montego Bay, St. James, that resulted in a hostage incident involving a Canjet aircraft, on April 19.
A successful rescue and release operation by the Jamaican Security Forces, this morning (April 20), resulted in the man being captured. No one, including the crew, was harmed during the operation. The passengers were released before the operation.
“I have ordered an investigation into the circumstances under which the security arrangement at the Sangster International Airport could have been breached. We have an unblemished record of Airline safety and Airport safety. We have never had anything of its kind in Jamaica before,” the Prime Minister said, at a press conference, held at the airport, after the ordeal was over.
Also taking part in the press conference was the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who is on an official visit to the island.
Emphasising that the island’s airport safety record must be protected and preserved, the Prime Minister said: “I have instructed the Minister of Transport and Works to have the Civil Aviation Authority as well as the Airports Authority conduct an immediate investigation of the systems in place and the circumstances in which this incident, which should not have happened, could have happened, and I expect to have that report as soon as it is completed.”
The Prime Minister was flown to Montego Bay early in the morning to be kept abreast and to have a personal input in the operations to free the over 150 passengers and crew that were on the aircraft, which was destined for Halifax, in Canada, via Havana, Cuba.
Giving details of what occurred, Mr. Golding explained that the 21 year-old Montego Bay resident, who was armed with a gun, forced his way on to the aircraft at approximately 10:22 last night.
He pointed out that every effort was made to convince the young man to abort his misguided mission, but to no avail.
“When shortly after daybreak this morning, it appeared that he (the hijacker) was increasingly unwilling to do so, the security forces did an assessment of the danger to which the crew members, who were being held on board the aircraft, were exposed, and took strategic action to enter the aircraft and to disarm the young man. They did so successfully, without a shot being fired, without anyone, including the offender himself, being hurt,” the Prime Minister said.
“He is now in custody; he is being interrogated, and the normal criminal proceedings are being carried out,” Mr. Golding said.
The Prime Minister said he was relieved at the satisfactory end to the situation, and had high praise for the efficiency and professionalism with which the security forces carried out the operation.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Prime Minister also praised the Jamaican security forces for their professionalism, adding that he was very delighted at how the situation turned out. He expressed gratitude for the safe release of all the passengers and crew.
“I want to thank Prime Minister Golding for his personal involvement and engagement in this. I know that he and all of his people have spent a very long night, but right from the Prime Minister down, the Jamaican authorities have demonstrated a competency and a professionalism and rapidity in dealing with events that I think is not just something we are deeply appreciative for, but quite frankly awed by, and it is quite a performance for which all of you should be very proud,” Mr. Harper said.
Mr. Golding also announced that the Sandals Chain of Hotels has extended an offer of a free one-week vacation at any of its Jamaican locations, to the crew and passengers who were on the aircraft, in recognition of the trauma to which they were subjected.
The Prime Minister extended appreciation to the Sandals Chain, particularly the Chairman, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, for the kind gesture.