Worst Plane cash in Dominica's history

Air Anguilla on Tuesday August 24, issued a statement expressing sympathy to the government and people of Dominica as a result of the fatal plane crash at Melville Hall in Margot. Director of Operations of Air Anguilla Restormel Franklyn who came to Dominica to assist with investigations into the cause of the crash, said that the company and the people of Anguilla and the US Virgin Islands, extend deepest sympathy particularly to the families of the passengers of flight 947.

Franklyn, who spoke highly of the Nigerian pilot, said that this tragedy should strengthen us as Caribbean people. The statement said to the family and friends of Air Anguilla charter Flight 947; that the staff and management of Air Anguilla wish to inform its friends and customers of the unfortunate downing of flight 947 from St. Maarten to Dominica on Sunday August 23, 1998 at about 5:33 PM.

"Air Anguilla wish to express deepest sympathy to the family and friends of those who were aboard the flight. We know that this is a difficult time. There are no words to convey what is felt during this time. We pray that you remain strong and trust in God in this time of need. Pray for us as we pray for you" the statement said.

Anguillian Communication Minister, conveying his Government's sympathy to the peoples of Dominica as they mourn the fatal air accident, said that the news came as a sock and it is still going through the people of Dominica continually and that he do not know when that sock will end. He was at the time speaking at Sunday's memorial service at the Marigot Methodist Church held in sympathy on the behalf of families who lost their love ones on Sunday August 23 in the plane crash. He said that his present in Dominica and at the service was to share the concerns of his Government and its people to bring words of relief and comfort in time of sorrow. He said that he believes that not only is Dominicans grieving but the whole Caribbean, because "we are all one people and that we all serve one God". The Minister said that the owner of Air Anguilla was deeply socked of the news of the crash and that he is a very loving and compassion man and because of this, his concerns go out to all. As the island continues to mourn the disaster of Flight 947, the dead is being put to rest. The first
to be buried was police officer and photographer Lewis Glenville from Portsmouth who lived in Canefield. He was given a military funeral on Friday August 28.

The Island started mourning on Monday Morning as the news of the missing Cardinal Airlines scheduled Flight 947 from St. Maartin to Dominica which disappeared on approached at Melville Hall Airport on Sunday afternoon August 23, about 5:33 PM, was found in the hills some miles south above the airport.

The Cessna 402 owned and operated by Air Anguilla and piloted by a Nigerian had ten Dominicans on board. According to the air traffic controller on duty, the light aircraft was given clearance to land but never landed. A search for the missing plane started Sunday evening but was hampered by poor weather conditions in the Melville Hall area. However, with good weather conditions Monday morning, a farmer with holdings around the Vauxhall area, discovered parts of an aircraft and reported the incident to authorities. It was later confirmed that this was the missing aircraft, which disappeared in poor weather conditions Sunday afternoon.

There was only one survivor 10-year-old Kelly John from Newtown. He died at the Princess Margaret Hospital about three o'clock later that Monday after doctors fought hard to save his life. The pilot and the 10 other Dominicans were taken away from the crash scene confirmed death.

There was hope for the nation when the news came over radio that there was one survivor. The rescue party had come across 10-year-old Kelly John unconscious. He was hurriedly placed on an ambulance, which rushed him to the Marigot Hospital and then the Princess Margaret Hospital. Kelly, a student of St. Mary's Primary, had traveled to St. Maarten to spend his summer holidays with his mother, and was returning home for school.

The passengers on that plane at the time of the crash including the pilot were serving police officer, Glenville Lewis, Josephine and Nyanna Francois and Jonathan Lake, Latoya James, Valda Simon, Marcus "Alleyne" Webster, Ann-Marie Guye, Marlon Royer and Captain Ilouba "Chris" Adingupu.

As rescue workers searched the sight with un-lookers looking on, mangled bodies around the wreckage evoked tears from most persons who visited the site Monday morning. The crash left the nation stunned and in mourning, as reports came over national radio those ten bodies was removed from crash site.

While there is no official report on what may have caused Flight 947 to go down, speculation is that poor weather conditions in the area at the time maybe the reason. The island all day was affected by a tropical storm and visibility on approach to the runway was also poor. According to airport management, a Liat pilot reported that the airplane was about 800 feet above the approach, and some three miles south west of the Melville Hall runway. He also said that soon after, the Liat pilot reported that he was receiving the distress signal from the Cessna 402.

A survey of the site revealed that the plane had lost a wing, an engine, and its fuselage, as it ripped through trees before coming to a halt. Bodies were strewn around the wreck. The battered and bleeding bodies, some with near-severed limbs, were carried on stretchers to a waiting Police vehicle, which took them to the Lyndhurst Funeral Home.

Inspectors of the Antigua-based Directorate of Civil Aviation, the US Federal Aviation Agency, and the National Transportation Safety Board were on Dominica at the crash site investigations into fatal crash of the Air Anguilla aircraft.

Airport Manager Walsh Richards speaking to local news reporters on Tuesday after the crash said that a number of factors are being taken into consideration by the investigators. He said that these include weather conditions at the time of the accident, the physical approach to the airport, the weight and balance of the aircraft, and the way the pilot responded to the particular situation. Richards also said that the report from the investigators to Government would include the likely cause or causes of the crash and recommendations aimed at avoiding similar occurrences in the future.

Sunday August 30 has been declared a national day of mourning by the Government of Dominica. A memorial service at the Marigot Methodist Church with the Dominica Council of Churches and the Dominica Evangelical Association is scheduled for 3:30 PM.

Glenville Lewis, family of three - Josephine and Nyanna Francois and Jonathan Lake, Latoya James, Valda Simon, Marcus "Alleyne" Webster, Ann-Marie Guye, Marlon Royer
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