By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
MICAL MP V Alfred Gray said yesterday the work at the Mayaguana airport will not be completed before the end of November because of government’s concerns over the quality of the construction.
This news comes after residents in Mayaguana were forced to use car lights to illuminate the runway Sunday night for an air ambulance aircraft to land. In April, three people died after a plane hit a car which was using its lights to light the runway, leading Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin to pledge that emergency runway lights would be installed in Mayaguana “immediately”.
Mr Gray said the situation on Sunday was an emergency and due to a system failure, the residents had to resort to “ancient methods”.
“The lights are in Mayaguana, but I am told that the system failed because of some battery problem, as a result they had to use the ancient method with the cars lighting the runway, but it worked without a hitch. It was allowed because it was a life and death situation. The plane came out of Nassau. The Air Ambulance evacuated the patient and I am told that she is doing much better, so you know when life and death is looking you in the face you have to make some decisions,” he said.
“The accident which happened in June was so freaky and I still don’t understand why, only God knows what happened. The Bahamian people have been doing that for years, I am sure more than 50 years and something went wrong that day which was very unfortunate. Having said that in those islands that are remote and distant sometimes you are faced with making decisions that are life and death and last night was a decision that was required to be made and so it went off without a hitch, even though it was using the ancient method, but it worked, in some cases you have to do what you have to do,” he said.
He was referring to the freak accident in June in which three persons in a truck lighting the runway were killed as the emergency flight clipped the truck as it touched down to pick up a patient for hospital in Nassau.
Mr Gray said the runway, which was scheduled to be completed by the beginning of October will not be completed until November, maybe even later, because of government’s concerns.
“The pace is slow and I am not sure why it is so slow, there was some inspection done and the quality turned out to be less than acceptable and so the government’s inspectors ordered it to be redone rather than continue with the inferior work and so that may have caused some of the slow down,” he said.
“The inspection was done about three weeks ago and they were advised to correct and adjust some things, the date has been pushed back, it was set previously to be completed around the end of October now I am told it may be the end of November and that is provided they continue to do everything in accordance with the governments inspection team because even if we go back at the end of October and things are not the way they should be, we will certainly take corrective action which might cause some further delay, but I am not expecting that. I think they know what standards the government expects and we expect them to follow them.”
In June, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation announced that solar lights would be installed at the airport. That announcement came after an aircraft – forced to make a risky midnight landing on the unlit, severely damaged runway on Mayaguana, crashed into a truck, setting it on fire and killing the three people inside.
The vehicle was one of several that had lined the runway that night to illuminate it for the aircraft, as there were no lights installed at the time.
In the aftermath of the disaster, Mrs Hanna-Martin vowed to order emergency lights immediately.
The PLP government also laid the blame for the crash at the feet of the former FNM administration, which had renegotiated a contract that they claimed would have seen the runway repaired and lights installed.
The I Group Management Company said last month that work on the runway was on time and on budget.