Death on flight leaves CAL passengers stranded in Puerto Rico

Scores of passengers aboard a Caribbean Airlines flight from Miami to Piarco, Trinidad on Monday, were left stranded for 30 hours in Puerto Rico after an emergency landing there due to the death of a passenger.

The flight had 146 passengers on board.

CAL’s Flight, BW483, was en route to the Piarco International Airport when about halfway through its journey, around 6 pm on Monday it landed in Puerto Rico after flight stewards alerted the captain of the medical emergency in which the passenger died.

Guardian Media was told that it was not until 8.15 pm that passengers and crew members were allowed to disembark the plane and more 10 hours before they got an update.

CAL did not disclose what happened to the aircraft to prevent the passengers from travelling on to Trinidad, but said in a statement yesterday morning that another aircraft was sent to relieve the passengers by midnight Monday.

However, that aircraft was also unable to leave, due to circumstances outside of the airline’s control.

With every hour that passed, tensions rose among passengers who flooded the counter for answers on when they will be back in the air and on their way to their destination.

Desperation also kicked in for one passenger who was on her way to her father’s funeral.

Zorina Alli, a Guyanese national, sobbed as she spoke to Guardian Media yesterday morning pleading with CAL to take her home.

“They need me home… I hear my dad passed away on Saturday so I booked my ticket on Monday,” she cried.

She left on Monday on CAL’s flight BW483 en route to the Piarco International Airport. There, she was to meet her sisters and take another flight home to bid their final farewell to their father yesterday. She said relatives were trying to postpone the funeral until she got home.

The Customer Experience Team apologised to customers and by 10 am yesterday, offered hotel, meals and transportation at the airline’s expense assuring that it had been “working assiduously to get you to your final destination and are communicating with the relevant authorities toward this end”.

Some said they waited more that four gruelling hours for some relief.

“We haven’t seen a sip of water or grain of rice since then,” Michelle Michael-Jogie, a former WINTV Sports Anchor who was among the stranded passengers, told Guardian Media yesterday.

She said here were several elderlies, including a 94-year-old, waiting.

“When I checked in Miami, they offered that we send our hand luggage through cargo which we did, as well as a lot of elderly people did. Those elderly have their medication in that bag and we haven’t even gotten access to our baggage yet,” she indicated in an earlier interview with Guardian Media around 11:30 am yesterday.

By 3 pm, Michael-Jogie said they were shuttled to their hotel.

Around 4.40 pm, CAL sent an email to passengers informing them that a new flight, BW3483, would be at Terminal C, Gate 2 for a departure time of midnight. The flight was scheduled to arrive at the Piarco International Airport at 1.50 am today. Arrangements were made to have the passengers picked up from the hotel at 8 pm last night.

Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Brown said he was in touch with CAL through its Corporate Sole, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert.

“I feel great empathy for the affected travellers and particularly the family members of the traveller who passed away,” Browne said.

“Our Honorary Consul in Puerto Rico has also been closely monitoring the situation and providing the MFCA with regular updates,” he added.

There has been no confirmation as to what was the cause of the passenger’s death but she is believed to be a United States national.

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