A Caribbean Airlines Boeing 737-800 operating as Flight BW-523, registration 9Y-PBM, overshot the runway by 328 feet at Cheddi Jagan International Airport (GEO), outside of Georgetown, Guyana, and broke apart just behind the first class section of the fuselage after landing in rainy conditions on Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 1:32 a.m. local time, according to reports published today by CBC News, the Daily Mail, Bloomberg News, the New York Daily News, CTV News Edmonton, WBAL-TV, and multiple other information sources.
There were no fatalities to the 157 passengers, 96 of whom were American citizens, and 6 crew members, although at least two passengers suffered broken legs and about 100 others suffered lacerations, bruises, and other injuries.
Those needing medical attention were first treated at the Diamond Diagnostic Hospital and then sent on to the Georgetown Public Hospital.
The ill-fated plane was one of 25 aircraft operated by the Trinidad based carrier, which owns a total of 14 other Boeing 737-800 aircraft in its fleet. It had landed on runway 06/24, a 7,448 foot asphalt surface, as seen in the attached slide show and video clip which accompany this report.
Caribbean Airlines is the national airline of Trinidad and Tobago, an independent nation made up of islands in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela.
There was no post-crash fire resulting from the incident, which potentially could have been much worse, since the aircraft came to rest just short of a 200-foot-deep ravine, after breaking through a perimeter fence.
The flight had begun at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens, NY, on Friday, July 29, 2011 at 6:19 p.m. EDT, and had flown directly to Piarco International Airport (POS), in Port of Spain, Trinidad, where it had landed at 10:39 p.m. local time. before continuing to its final destination in Guyana.
According to a statement by the carrier, “The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority has closed the Cheddi Jagan Airport until 10:00 a.m. local time while an investigation is being conducted. The perimeter around the aircraft has been secured and is being guarded by the Guyana Defence Force and Police Officials.”
Caribbean Airlines went on to state that in had requested accident investigation assistance from the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Some passengers escaping the wreckage through the ruptured fuselage hole complained that they found themselves near an unlighted airport perimeter fence which was mangled and broken by the impact with the plane, and that rescue workers were slow in arriving.
One woman, 41-year-old Geeta Ramsingh of Philadelphia, angrily told the Associated Press that while she was waiting for help to arrive, “a taxi driver appeared from nowhere and charged me $20 to take me to the terminal. I had to pay, but in times of emergencies, you don’t charge people for a ride.”
This was the first major accident for Caribbean Airlines, which has been operating since January 1, 2007, replacing its predecessor, BWIA West Indies Airways. The carrier flies from Caribbean to the United States, Canada and South America.
Guyana is an independent country on the northern coast of South America with an estimated population of 752,940. It was formerly a Dutch colony for over 200 years, and then governed by the United Kingdom, from whom it gained independence on May 26, 1966. It is the only English speaking country in South America.
A dark moment in its history, known as the Jonestown massacre, took place on November 18, 1978. On that date, in a cult known as the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, run by a charismatic leader named Jim Jones, 918 people died in the settlement as well as in a nearby airstrip and in Georgetown, all but two apparently from cyanide poisoning administered in a mass suicide.
The victims included Congressman Leo Ryan, the first member of Congress assassinated in the line of duty in the history of the United States.
The deaths at Jonestown was the largest such event in modern history and resulted in the biggest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001.
The Peoples Temple had leased over 3,800 acres of jungle land from the Guyanese government, on an isolated site, with soil of poor fertility, even by local standards. After the tragic suicides, which some called mass murder, the acreage was left to be grown over by the surrounding jungle.
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