The scene of the crash at Grand Bahama shipyard.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A RECYCLING plant in Freeport, Grand Bahama has been out of operation since November 9 when a Learjet carrying Dr Myles Munroe and eight others to a leadership conference crashed into its facility, destroying its generator and causing damages worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Located adjacent to the Grand Bahama Shipyard, City Services Limited used to employ between 15 to 25 people but has laid off eight people since the accident, the company’s Executive Vice President Pete Hughes told this newspaper yesterday.
The matter adds another dimension to the tragedy, which saw the loss of nine lives and now involves two separate legal disputes. This comes after the revelation that the pilots’ actions were the primary cause of the accident.
It has been “extremely difficult” raising the funds needed to repair or replace the equipment that has been destroyed, Mr Hughes said, adding that the remains of the jet are still “balled up” in the company’s facility, waiting to be removed.
Diplomat Aviation, the company under which the Learjet was registered, is currently involved in a legal battle over an insurance pay out.
The recycling company - whose damaged equipment was not insured - has therefore been unable to obtain the money needed to restart its business, The Tribune was told.
“We have lost our generator power plant and our grinder,” Mr Hughes said. “We hope to get back up in operation in a few weeks. With no insurance, we’ve had to put all the money up out of our own pockets. It’s been extremely difficult raising funds to repair and replace money and in these economic times it’s difficult to do that.”
The official report into the crash by the Civil Aviation Department said the management of the company placed the value of damage at over $1m.
Mr Hughes, however, said the final figure is from $750,000 to $800,000.
He said the damage inflicted on the company’s equipment resulted from the jet’s crash and the actions of officers from the nearby fire department who responded to the incident.
“Our electrical components and high voltage equipment sustained damage,” he said, “and to be fair and honest, a lot of the damage came from the airport fire department. When they arrived on the scene, the officer told them to spray foam everything before going in, so a combination of the jet and the foaming caused the damage.”
Mr Hughes said the company has spoken to an attorney representing Diplomat Aviation who noted that attempts are being made to sort out its insurance issues.
As for the remains of the jet, he expressed an eagerness to have the debris removed but is weary over what could be the cost of doing so.
“We still have the jet in the yard and we’ve been explicitly told that we can’t destroy it because it could be relevant to insurance issues,” he said. “Eventually we have to turn it over to the family. I’ve spent enough money on this effort but we need to remove the plane from our facilities. It’s still balled up there in the same exact spot.”
A lack of communication between the company and families of the crash victims has been one disappointing aspect of the matter, Mr Hughes said. In summing up the incident he said: “It’s a tragedy for everyone involved but we have to continue.”
Last week The Tribune revealed that the estate of the only American on board the plane, Diego Desantiago, filed a lawsuit against Diplomat Aviation.
It was also revealed by this newspaper in December that lawyers representing Diplomat Aviation (Bahamas) Ltd, the company under which the Learjet was registered, were embroiled in a court battle with a US-based insurance company over the pay out from a $10m liability policy.
The plaintiff, XL Specialty Insurance Company, has insisted that it is under no obligation to honour the policy because it expired on November 5, 2014, four days before the crash, and was not renewed.