A harrowing hostage situation aboard a CanJet plane at a Jamaican airport ended peacefully Monday, the Halifax airline confirmed.
Kent Woodside, vice-president and general manager of CanJet Airlines, said all 174 passengers and eight crew members walked off hijacked Flight 918 unharmed.
The gunman released most travellers not long after forcing his way through security and onto the plane, but six crew members were held for hours before being freed yesterday morning by anti-terrorism officers, who also arrested the assailant. The Jamaican government identified him as Stephen Fray of Montego Bay, a mentally challenged man in his early 20s.
“Our priority is now to provide comfort and support to the passengers and crew who were involved in this ordeal,” Woodside said.
He said the armed man boarded the Boeing 737-800 at 11:30 p.m. Atlantic time Sunday at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. The charter flight for Transat Tours had flown from Halifax earlier and was set to stop in Santa Clare, Cuba before heading back to Canada. It was due to land at 7:15 a.m., according to the Halifax Stanfield International Airport’s website.
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“I’d like to praise the professionalism and bravery of our crew, who, while trained to deal with serious incidents, would have hoped never to have to deal with this reality,” Woodside said.
Crew members included Captain James Murphy, AirCare security officer Garry Knickle and flight attendants Nicole Rogers and Heidi Tofflemire, all of Halifax, CanJet said.
Passengers included Brenda Grenier of Dartmouth, who told CTV News that the armed man forced the pilot out of the plane before firing a shot.
“Everybody’s crying and shaking and scared,” she recalled. “We’re all praying to God, let this be over.”
Another CanJet plane was en route to Montego Bay Monday afternoon to pick up passengers. The crew was expected to fly back separately.