Directors of Tropic Air are blaming the slick runway at the Municipal Airstrip in Belize City for a near disaster involving a Cessna Caravan, Flight 281, on Thursday afternoon.
The plane, coming in from San Pedro, landed successfully and then slid into the cold waters at the Eastern end of the runway at around 2:30pm. It is believed that the periodic rains over the past days made the surface of the runway slippery, resulting in the accident. There were five passengers on board, and all were successfully evacuated unhurt.
Ironically, on board the downed aircraft was Carlos Najera, a cable technician with Coral Cable Vision in San Pedro who was shot during a robbery on the island earlier in the afternoon. He was being transported to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital because of serious damage to his left knee.
The incident in San Pedro happened at 1:20pm on Pescador Drive. Witnesses told the Reporter that four men robbed the Three Apples Vegetable Store, and Najera was one of a group of men who tried to stop them as they came out the door. One of the robbers, so far unidentified by police, shot Najera in the knee before all four men escaped.
Police have allegedly apprehended one man for questioning at this time. Najera was also successfully taken off the aircraft without further injury.
The accident has highlighted a constant criticism that the Municipal Airstrip is dangerous for aircrafts which must use it on a daily basis. Both large operators which utilize the runway have long maintained that there is the need for urgent attention to the runway, which they say is far too short and far too narrow. The situation has become so critical that periodically the airstrip has been closed down during times of heavy rain or exceptionally high tides which flood the runway.
The Reporter has confirmed that a $6 million contract for the expansion of the runway was awarded to contractor, Imer Hernandez in June 2013, but that works seem to have come to a standstill one year and a half after the contract was awarded.
According to directors of Tropic Air, the Cessna Caravan, because of its immersion in salt water, has to be written off. That amounts to a loss of $4M. Still, it could have been much worse.