Probe in Belize plane crash

Acting Prime Minister Patrick Faber

BELMOPAN, Belize – An investigation has been launched in Belize into the crash of a plane on which Acting Prime Minister Patrick Faber and Minister of Agriculture Godwin Hulse were passengers.

The Tropic Air single-engine propeller plane went down last Friday morning but Faber, who was acting while Prime Minister Dean Barrow was out of the island, Hulse and the other five people on board escaped serious injury.

According to a government statement, the plane which was enroute to Punta Gorda Town was taking off from the tiny airstrip in the town of Placencia when its left landing wheel clipped a passing car. The impact caused the plane to plunge into the sea right off the coast of Placencia, not far from the airstrip.

“A rescue team was sent out and all passengers onboard the plane, including the pilot, were transported safely back to land,” the statement said.

A road passes near the end of the airstrip and two barriers are usually lowered to stop traffic during take-offs and landings. A key part of the investigation into the crash is why only one barrier was lowered when the Tropic Air plane was taking off.

“The Belize Airports Authority had placed barriers and signage in place at the Placencia airstrip to prevent just such an occurrence,” the airline said in a statement.

“In the wake of what has happened, Tropic Air in coordination with the Belize Airports Authority and the Belize Department of Civil Aviation are looking at how this vehicle passed in front of the departing aircraft and what measures need to be implemented immediately to prevent another such occurrence.”

The airline insisted that the incident “was in no way a reflection of Tropic Air’s operational, maintenance or business practices”, stressing that it continues to meet and exceed all industry standards and recently completed its third International Air Transport Association (IATA) Standard Safety Assessment audit.