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'I'm still shaking:' Toronto man recounts plane's emergency landing in Guyana

Last Updated Nov 9, 2018 at 5:25 pm EDT

A Fly Jamaica flight en route to Toronto crash landed early Friday morning in Guyana.

All passengers on board survived and six people suffered only minor injuries.

There were 82 Canadians on board on the plane, which was carrying 118 people, two infants and eight crew members.

Global Affairs Canada said no Canadians were among those injured.

Invor Bedessee was among the Canadians on the flight. While grateful to have escaped injury, Bedessee said he was still processing the close call hours later.

“I’m still shaking, I’m so shocked,” the Toronto man said from a Georgetown hotel. “It’s just a shock through my body … I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t do it. It’s not possible.”

Bedessee, who was returning home with a friend after a week’s golfing vacation, said trouble began on the flight well before takeoff when crew members and technicians spent 40 minutes struggling to close a door.

The eventual takeoff went smoothly, but he said it didn’t take long to learn that something was amiss.

A hydraulic problem on the Boeing 757 reportedly forced the pilots to return to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, just over 40 minutes after takeoff.

Bedessee said the flight then made several “s-shapes and circles” in the sky in what he presumed was an effort to dump fuel.

The landing appeared to go smoothly at first, but soon the tires appeared to be “free-wheeling on the tarmac,” he said.

The aircraft went to the end of the runway where spikes designed to halt its progress burst several tires, he said, noting that several passengers were screaming and praying by that point.

“Then the plane swerved to the right and the right wing was flapping and it ripped apart away from the main fuselage,” he said. “And then the engine actually rotated 90 degrees the other direction.”

The plane barrelled through a chain-link fence before finally coming to a halt at the top of an embankment, Bedessee said. An inflatable slide was then deployed to help passengers evacuate the aircraft.

A statement from Fly Jamaica confirmed a technical problem forced Flight OJ256 to return and “suffered an accident on landing.”

Fly Jamaica also reported that two elderly passengers had been taken to hospital as a precaution after the landing, and Bedessee said any injuries were likely sustained during the evacuation process.

“People were coming down, and the people at the bottom were not getting up fast enough,” he said. “They’re getting kicked in the back, pushed around, walked over.”

Fly Jamaica said the airline is currently making arrangements to fly the plane’s passengers out of Guyana. A hotline has been set up for family members looking for information at +592-261-2281 or +592-600-7022. Canadian citizens can contact consular officials at +592-227-2081.

The incident is not the first at Guyana’s largest airport.

In July 2011, a Boeing 737-800 aircraft belonging to Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines crashed at Cheddi Jagan after landing too far down the runway and running out of braking space, injuring several people. The runway then was 2,255 metres long, but is currently being extended to 3,048 metres.

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