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Nov 17, 2017

Tropic Air Plane, with Ministers and Others Inside, Sinks after Clipping Vehicle at Airstrip

A Tropic Air flight carrying Acting Prime Minister Patrick Faber and Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse plunged into the Caribbean Sea in Placencia shortly before nine o’clock this morning. Reports are that upon taking off from the Placencia Airstrip, the left landing wheel made contact with a passing vehicle that had managed to bypass the barriers.  The impact caused the aircraft to nose dive into the nearby water in front of the airstrip. While all passengers on board the plane and inside the vehicle were rescued, an investigation is ongoing to determine who is responsible for the incident and what additional safety measures, if necessary, needs to be put in place. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Patrick Faber & Godwin Hulse

Duane Moody, Reporting

Just before nine this morning, as a Tropic Air plane en route to Punta Gorda took off from the Placencia airstrip, one of the wheels crashed into a Subaru SUV that crossed in its path. On board at the time of the incident were eleven persons, including the pilot and Acting Prime Minister Patrick Faber and Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse, who were on their way to the official launch of the PG Multipurpose Complex. The aircraft crash landed in the nearby sea, several hundred feet from the shoreline. The plane quickly submerged with only the tip of its tail exposed. A Belize Water Service crew witnessed the frightening ordeal and immediately ran to the rescue of the vehicle’s occupants first.

 

Arnie Whyte

Arnie Whyte, Water Works Technician

“We respond and jump out of the vehicle and just run to see what was going on. With that we stopped and helped the passenger on the passenger side to get out of the vehicle cause the whole side was mashed in and he was also bleeding and it looked like he was dead; like ih neck bruk or something. So wit that we helped him out and then me and Mister Andrews went towards the beach.”

 

As the BWS technicians pulled the men from the vehicle with the assistance of other residents and responders, they turned their attention to the plane and its passengers.  Without hesitation, they plunged into the sea and swam to the crash site to rescue those in the water; shortly after they were joined by boats and a nearby tour guide.

 

Arnie Whyte

“Instead of taking pictures, we end up swimming out there to assist the passengers on the plane and assist them with getting out of the plane.”

 

Duane Moody

“So when you reach to the beach, tell me what you guys saw.”

 

Stephon Andrews

Stephon AndrewsField Worker

“When we reach the beach, we saw that there was people on top of the plane trying to reach to safety. So we decided to go in closer and that’s when Mister Arnie Whyte told me if I wanted to swim and I said let’s go. We went so close; there was gas in the water and we decided to continue and when we reach there, there were so many people; some were already trying to swim in already. And that’s when me and Mister Arnie Whyte reached by the boat, there were so many people on top of the boat and we decided to wait cause there were some people from Tropic Air coming to assist the people with a smaller vessel, no engine. Not everyone got into the boat; at least….”

 

Arnie Whyte

“…at least four passengers got into the boat.”

 

Duane Moody

“This boat, I understand that it was actually a tour that was going out, saw what happened and they diverted…”

 

Arnie Whyte

“When they came, we only had four passengers in the small vessel that they took out to assist the people with. With that then a vessel was going to take a tour out and instead of going out, he came to assist. Upon coming to assist, he said he could take the passengers, but not everybody. But who were on the plane we tried to get them to safety.”

 

Police and EMTs also responded to the scene; several persons including the pilot and the front seat passenger in the vehicle were injured in the accident.

 

Arnie Whyte

“He was in total shock; the driver couldn’t even move. All he did was just sit still and just tremble. He couldn’t even react to anybody talking to him or anything. He was so shock that he couldn’t even move. So instead we tried to assist the person that couldn’t help himself to come out. So we opened the door and assist him in getting out of the vehicle.”

 

Stephon Andrews

“There was this one man complaining about his rib; he hurt his rib. And there was one of the pilot who was bleeding on the forehead.”

 

In the aftermath, Acting PM Faber posted that he was okay and that everyone was safe. But what led to the collision is being investigated by representatives from Civil Aviation and the Belize Airports Authority.  It is known that the location of the runway has always been dangerously close to the Placencia Road. Low-lying barriers are in place to control the flow of traffic during the landing and takeoff of airplanes. Here’s what eyewitness Arnie Whyte says he and his team observed and who it is believed was responsible for the mishap.

 

Arnie Whyte

“Upon reaching the airstrip, we stopped because one of the barriers was done, but we neva notice if the plane was landing or taking off. Upon reaching at the bump, we noticed that the plane was taking off and the next barrier was not down and the driver just jump the bump and continue drive completely around. And upon reaching the center of the curve, the right wheel of the plane just collided into the vehicle and the plane just continue before it went down in the water. I worked at Tropic Air for eight years before I resign and come dah WASA. Before even they mi have gate, we does have to deal with that situation—di try stop traffic and thing because of the plane. Then dehn put in bumps; after bumps, we still deos have to try stop the traffic. From deh, dehn get the gates and whatsoever, but from my time deh I see plane wheel roll top ah vehicle and all that. But I neva see something happen like what happened today.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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2 Responses for “Tropic Air Plane, with Ministers and Others Inside, Sinks after Clipping Vehicle at Airstrip”

  1. Andre A Lopez says:

    Glad to read that no one was hurt—what a miracle.

  2. spike says:

    I think the passengers on the airplane are due a full refund!

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