Gunman in Jamaica storms Canadian airliner, holds crew .....

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Gunman in Jamaica storms Canadian airliner, holds crew .....

Postby BORG » 20 Apr 2009, 12:12

Gunman in Jamaica storms Canadian airliner, holds crew hostage

By The Canadian Press
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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica - Six crew members on board a Canadian airliner were being held hostage at gunpoint early Monday after a lone gunman with "mental issues" forced his way through security and stormed the jet as it was preparing to depart Jamaica for Halifax.

All the passengers who were to be on board Canjet Airlines flight 918, scheduled to leave Montego Bay at 11 p.m. Sunday night local time, were safely off the plane, said Sangster International Airport spokeswoman Elizabeth Scotton.

"There are no passengers involved at this time, and there's no passengers on board the aircraft," Scotton said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press. In all, 182 people had been scheduled to be aboard, the airline said.

No injuries have been reported.

Jamaican police spokesman Karl Angell said both police and army personnel were at the airport monitoring the situation. He declined to provide details on the progress of negotiations with the gunman, but confirmed that two of the Boeing 737's eight crew members had been released while the rest remained on board.

"The passengers have all been debriefed by the Jamaican police and have been placed in local hotels," police said in a statement.

There were conflicting reports about how many of the passengers were on the plane at the time of the incident; Scotton said most had not yet boarded the flight, although police said dozens of passengers were briefly held hostage before being released.

Alphonse Gosselin, whose son Christian was on board the plane with girlfriend Nancy as part of a group of people from New Brunswick's Acadian Peninsula headed to Cuba for a wedding, spoke with his son shortly after the pair were released.

"He was kind of shaken up, but basically he said everybody in the gang was OK," Gosselin told media from his home in Tracadie-Shiela, N.B.

Gosselin said a shot was fired outside the plane, and that the gunman demanded money from the passengers. "He told his girlfriend to immediately hide their passports in her back pockets, and their credit cards, which she did."

The flight was the girl's first, he added. "She was quite nervous, so I don't know if she'll ever fly again."

At a news conference in Halifax, Kent Woodside, vice president and general manager of CanJet, acknowledged reports of a shot having been fired outside the aircraft, but said there were no injuries.

Police said negotiations were ongoing with the gunman, who apparently managed to force his way through security and board the plane about 40 minutes before it was scheduled to take off.

Daryl Vaz, Jamaica's information minister, told CNN the gunman was believed to be a young Jamaican man in his 20s with "mental issues." He said the man was demanding to be taken to Cuba.

Vaz said the man's father had also been brought in to assist with negotiations.

In an interview, Vaz said he was surprised about the fact that someone with a gun was able to breach security.

"That is something our investigation has already started with the police and the operators of the airport and of course, the government airport authority," he said. "That is something that is ongoing and in the early stages."

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding was also in Montego Bay and involved in the negotiations. Police said Golding also met with passengers and "assured them that everything possible was being done to enable them to return home as early as possible."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who happened to be in Jamaica for a one-day visit, was awakened early Monday with news of the incident, said an official in his office.

The official said the PMO was monitoring developments and was "deeply concerned."

"A member of the RCMP as well as the management and consular services officer at the Canadian High Commission in Jamaica are en route to Montego Bay to provide assistance," the official said.

Image

The Canadian Press Photo: Canjet Airlines flight 918 sits on the tarmac near the Jamaican resort of Montego Bay....
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Tue Apr. 21 2009 8:44:01 AM

Postby BORG » 21 Apr 2009, 16:40

Tue Apr. 21 2009 8:44:01 AM
Plane carrying passengers from hijacked jet returns to Canada

The Canadian Press
Image

A ground transport vehicle passes by the CanJet plane which was hijacked in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Monday April 20, 2009. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS



HALIFAX — There were hugs, kisses and tears of relief after about 40 of the 159 passengers who were on a CanJet plane that was hijacked in Jamaica returned home early Tuesday.

About 150 family and friends were on hand as the passengers entered the arrivals terminal at Halifax Stanfield International Airport shortly after midnight to an emotional welcome.

One husband grabbed his wife as she came through the door, hugged her tightly, and said: "Thank God you're safe."

A 13-year-old girl who had been vacationing with another family burst into tears when she spotted several family members carrying signs adorned with hearts.

She was swept up by her mother and other hugging, kissing relatives and quickly whisked from the terminal.

Brenda Grenier of Dartmouth, N.S., had just boarded CanJet Flight 918 in Montego Bay with her daughter late Sunday when a man armed with a gun stormed onto the plane.

"I think he was really high on drugs," said Grenier, who was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a Jamaica flag, and her blonde hair braided in corn rows.

"He wanted to go to the U.S. and didn't realize our plane was going to Canada. He was not a nice man."

Grenier cried when she was met at the airport by her husband, Jean-Marc, who said the stress of the day had been difficult to endure.

"Obviously, not being able to be there to comfort her in the moment of crisis ... it was very worrisome," he said.

Leanne Shaddock of Hatchett Lake, N.S., was seated at the back of the plane with her three daughters -- Rayne, 8; Brooke, 9; and Bryanna, 13 -- when the hijacking began.

The four were huddling in fear on the floor of the plane when a shot rang out up front.

"He was getting mad at the pilot because he wouldn't co-operate," explained Bryanna. "He was like, `I want to go to America now."'

At the sound of the gun, the girl said, "it went crazy."

"Everybody started to cry. Everybody was fine before that, but then, like, we knew he was serious and not joking around. I wasn't crying or anything. I didn't know what to do."

The passengers and two crewmembers were released about 45 minutes after the hijacking began but the remaining six crew weren't freed until a Jamaican tactical team stormed the plane Monday morning to arrest the gunman.

The crew returned home on a separate flight that landed at Halifax airport late Monday night.

"They were positive but understandably very tired and emotional," CanJet said of the crew in a release.

"At the request of the RCMP, the crew will be made available to give statements later today. For the time being, the crew is respectfully declining media interviews."

CanJet said it had representatives at the airport to offer assistance to passengers as they arrived. The RCMP had earlier offered counselling for anyone who might need it.

An ambulance was on the tarmac as the plane pulled up to the gate and a 31-year-old male passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was taken to hospital.

There was no word on his status.

Many of the passengers from the hijacking remained in Jamaica for their vacations or continued on to resorts in Cuba.
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