By Caribbean News Now contributor
BRADES, Montserrat -- Montserrat was in mourning on Monday following a crash of an aircraft operated by the national airline on Antigua late Sunday afternoon.
News reached the island shortly after 4pm on Sunday that a British Norman Islander nine-seat aircraft operated by FlyMontserrat had crashed shortly after takeoff from the V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua.
There were three passengers on board along with the pilot, Jason Forbes, who was pronounced dead on the scene. A woman, later identified as Annya Duncan, a Jamaican national and teacher at the Montserrat Secondary School also died in the aircraft. A 50-year old Guyanese woman was the other victim. She died shortly after arriving at the Mount Saint John Medical Centre. The sole survivor is a British national, who was said to have sustained bruises, lacerations and a broken ankle. None of his injuries were life threatening, according to official reports.
Deputy Premier Charles Kirnon, who has responsibility for aviation, said on Monday, “The government and people of Montserrat are deeply saddened by the incident yesterday. The government will be looking at offering grief counselling to the relatives of the victims of the plane crash. This incident has touched us all.”
Governor Adrian Davis said in a press statement, “I was extremely saddened to hear about the tragic incident at Antigua airport on 7 October involving a FlyMontserrat aircraft. This is a very sad day for our community, the effects of which will be felt by many on island and in the region.
“I want in particular to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of the three people who died in the incident. The thoughts of my wife and I are with them at this difficult time. The fourth person in the crash has suffered injuries but is currently in a stable condition and is being treated at the St John’s Hospital in Antigua. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials in London and the Caribbean are in contact with him and his family and are providing assistance.”
Davis added that the investigation was being led by Antiguan authorities and the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority with support from members of the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch, who arrived in Antigua late Monday to try and establish the cause of the incident.
Opposition leader Donaldson Romeo said the incident has touched us all and sent his prayers and well wishes to the families and friends mourning the deaths of the three victims.
Early Monday, the Minister of Education Colin Riley, the acting Permanent Secretary for Education Glenn Francis, members of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the Mental Health unit and the Montserrat Christian Council, visited the Montserrat Secondary School to offer support to the students and teachers mourning the loss of Duncan, who taught mathematics and integrated science there.
A candlelight vigil was due to be held at the Montserrat Secondary School on Tuesday evening at 6pm to remember her. A prayer vigil was held Monday evening by former students of the school who had been impacted by her work.
FlyMontserrat resumed its regular scheduled service on Monday between Antigua, Montserrat and Nevis. Meanwhile, the government increased the ferry service to daily operations to accommodate passengers who may be concerned about travelling by air.
Meanwhile, in a statement on Tuesday, FlyMontserrat said it wished to thank the numerous people who have sent in their best wishes, their prayers and support at a very difficult time.
Managing director, Nigel Harris, has been unable to respond to these in person while he helps to deal with the investigation, and gives help to the families of those affected by Sunday’s tragic accident in Antigua.
“FlyMontserrat operates to the very high standards of a UK regulated airline and its regulator, ASSI, which regularly visits to audit the company’s operations, was made aware of the accident on Sunday evening. ASSI has been helpful in offering its support at this time and the company is operating its normal service,” the airline said.
The airline emphasised that takes its responsibilities in terms of maintenance of aircraft and training of its crew very seriously in order to maintain its Air Operator’s Certificate. It will continue to do so.
The investigation team from the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch arrived on scene Monday and has already started work, assisted by the airline, although it could be some time before the cause of the accident is known.