Some 30-plus Western Air passengers are grateful to be alive tonight, after their flight crash-landed on the runway at the Grand Bahama International Airport and skidded into nearby bushes.
The flight was en route to New Providence from Bimini, with a stopover in Freeport.
As word spread of the aviation accident that occurred around 5:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, family and friends rushed to the Western Air terminal to learn of their loved ones well-being.
EMS personnel were called to the scene as a precaution to provide any medical assistance for passengers that suffered injury. Fortunately, no lives were lost; however, a number of passengers had minor injuries.
A team from this daily arrived on the scene a short time after the incident and spoke with several passengers.
Visibly shaken from the ordeal and sporting a gash on his forehead, Delon Thompson shared what transpired mid-air during the flight.
“A few minutes, while we were in the air, the pilot came on the mic and said that we had to turn around and go back to Freeport. He tried to keep us under control by saying that we must not worry and that he had everything under control.
“But, immediately, I knew something was wrong. All I could do was pray to God. We were about two or three feet off of the ground before the wing hit the ground,” Thompson recalled.
He was transported to the trauma section of the Rand Memorial Hospital, after receiving initial treatment on scene.
Thompson’s mother, Dominique Sawyer, claimed that when she arrived at the terminal she was given little or no information from officials about what had taken place.
“My son called me saying that the plane just crashed. I got here freaking out, the woman inside is having an attitude with me saying that I shouldn’t be freaking out,” Sawyer maintained. “My son was on a plane that just crashed, he just called me, I get here and I’m greeted by a person who doesn’t think I should be freaking out.
“This is my son. I am very grateful that he is okay, but the person who spoke to me was rude, she did not give me any details about what happened. She just thought that I was wrong because my son was on a plane that just crashed,” the irate mother claimed.
Jenson Farquharson, who also had a relative on the flight, said he too received a phone call from his loved one about the crash.
“I got a phone call from my loved one about 20 minutes ago, she told me that they just had a crash landing situation at Western Air and asked that I please come to the airport as soon as possible.
“She was on the flight to Nassau, but the flight obviously came back here and she said that they had a crash landing. She was quite shaken up when I saw her, but to the pilot I would just like to put my arms around him and thank him very much for the wonderful job he has done. There are no fatalities that I am aware of, which is absolutely fantastic.”
Farquharson was seen consoling his female relative, before she returned to the baggage claim area of the Western Air terminal.
Asked if passengers shared any details with him as to what transpired, Farquharson responded, “She said that there was an issue with the landing gear, that was all she said to me.”
Wilamae Bain and her grandson, Kesneil were also on that flight and they both were thankful to God for walking off the aircraft alive.
“We was going Nassau to a funeral … my aunt died,” said the grandmother.
She claimed that after several delays the flight finally left Freeport; however, some 15 minutes later the pilot said he had to turn around and head back to Freeport.
“I kept praying, because I had a feeling something was wrong with the flight. When he turned back, the wheel wasn’t coming out and he land the plane and the plane start swerving from side-to-side.
“Everybody was screaming, my grandson and I we were praying and thank God … the pilot he did a good job, he land the plane safely with everyone.”
Bain’s grandson said he suffered a minor cut to his leg; however, he too is thankful to God to have survived the crash landing.
Another male passenger, relating his version of the experience said that the flight from Bimini to Freeport was fine.
After landing in Grand Bahama and taking on passenger, the plane was airborne for the 35-minute flight to Nassau.
“I sat right by the wing and I heard a bam, but I didn’t know what it was,” the passenger claimed.
He noted that shortly after the pilot announced that they had to return to Freeport. “He didn’t say why. We came back into Freeport, it took us about 20 minutes and we circled … I don’t know the reason for circling, but we circled once and then I saw the airport. I thought then that something must be wrong.
“But then the pilot managed to bring the plane back around and he went down. It was a hard landing, the plane landed on the left side and when we landed the left side went down.
“The plane skidded from the back of the airport into the bushes.”
He claimed that the aircraft slid, “a good 200-feet before it stopped.”
Sherrexcia Rolle, Western Air, Vice President of Operation and General Counsel said that the airline is grateful that passengers and crew, all survived the ordeal.
“Our team is, generally, trained for this … these are manmade aircrafts so there are certain things beyond our control. However, our number one concern is making sure that everybody is safe and from what I can see, everyone is generally okay.”
Rolle noted that all procedures in incidents like these will be followed, “so anyone that even remotely looks like they suffered any sort of duress will receive medical assistance.”
Questioned as to the cause of the flight’s crash landing, Rolle said, “at this point we have no official report; however, I can say that there was no bash; but there was, possibly, a gear mishap that caused the aircraft to spin.
“Again, however, the most important thing was making sure that everybody was okay. We want to hear from the crew and passengers before we release any further information.”
Published Wednesday, February 8, 2017