TORONTO, Ont. – A Simcoe man held in Cuba for over three months is back on Canadian soil Friday, welcomed by a flag-waving group of family and friends at Pearson Airport.
Cody LeCompte’s flight arrived at Pearson at 7:30 p.m. The 19 year old was accompanied by his uncle, Gary Parmenter, and cousin on the plane.
He was ushered by customs officials out the side door of Terminal 3 gate C, rather than the main exit. The move upset Parmenter, as he felt the 19 year old’s homecoming was owed to his supporters – about 40 friends and family members – and the media, waiting for him out front.
However, he soon came to the front with a large smile on his face, looking relaxed and relieved. He kissed the ground, and then embraced his relatives and friends.
“Freedoms that we take for granted … you really don’t realize until [you’re] in a situation like this, and it really makes you think about things,” he told 680News.
Officials had told him he would be returning earlier, but the date of his return was delayed, twice.
“I really had my hopes up, and then it was shot right back down. I was really worried that it was going to happen again, but .. I’m here,” he said.
His family hired a limo for the trip home to Simcoe county, where they plan to attend a large party in his honour, but the first stop on LeCompte’s agenda was picking up a burger from Harvey’s.
LeCompte had not been allowed to leave the communist country since being in a car accident during his family vacation in April.
Parmenter has been in Cuba the past two weeks, trying to navigate the country’s complicated and confusing legal system.
On Thursday, he received an email from the Canadian consulate, stating the police order blocking LeCompte’s departure had been lifted.
“We got through customs. That was a pretty big thing,” he said about his experience leaving Cuba Friday afternoon, but “the real thing was when we jumped on the airplane, and I heard the wheels come up”
“We knew we were coming home, and there’s no way they could change their mind.”
LeCompte’s struggle with Cuban law began when the rental car he was driving was sideswiped by a pickup truck. His mother, second cousin and the cousin’s Cuban fiancee were in the car at the time.
The fiancee was seriously injured, but has since recovered. The driver of the truck escaped unharmed.
Under Cuban laws, the onus is on the driver to prove innocence.
Last week Cuban police allowed his family to post bail, on the condition that LeCompte would return to the country for a trial at a later date.
The entire ordeal has cost him and his family over $30,000.
LeCompte has already been thinking of ways his experience could help “so it doesn’t happen to anyone else”
As for his advice, he told 680News “there needs to be more information on anywhere you’re going before you go, so you’re educated and know what to look out for, and there wasn’t that.”