Wednesday, 13 June 2012 02:30
By Everton Barnes
Antigua St. John’s - Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer on Tuesday paid a visit to the LIAT headquarters to get a firsthand look at the destruction caused by the fire on Sunday night.
Spencer, who just returned from the 56th meeting of the OECS Authority in St Vincent and the Grenadines, said regional governments are themselves seeking to ascertain the full extent of the fire that destroyed the airline’s hangar, a Dash 8 aircraft and two buildings that housed office blocks.
“It is going to be very important for whatever measures have to be taken to get LIAT fully functional again, especially when it comes to its maintenance and other activities, and every effort should be made to do that.
“It is a most unfortunate development. What I am happy about is that there were no injuries in this. But the extent of the damage is clearly a major one and it is going to have some effect on LIAT going forward,” he stated.
Spencer also wants speedy decisions that will enable the airline to return to normalcy as soon as possible.
Outgoing Chief Executive Officer, Brian Challenger, who accompanied the prime minister on the tour, said both management and staff were quite shocked when they learnt of the fire, but that they are finding ways to continue.
He said a number of important records were lost during the fire and that the airline is working to see how best it can minimise the effects of the losses.
Challenger added that, so far, the airline has been fairly successful in the way it has been able to manage the crisis.
This, as Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit indicated that his country will pump money into the regional carrier to join Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua & Barbuda as shareholders.
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Chairman of the Shareholder governments Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said he was approached by his Dominican counterpart, who indicated that Dominica’s injection of cash into the airline could come as early as next week.
Gonsalves said that St Lucia is also indicating a willingness to follow Dominica’s lead and stake a claim into ownership of the regional airline.
At home, opposition parliamentarian Molwyn Joseph, is calling on PM Spencer to take steps to ensure that the jobs of Antiguans and Barbudans are protected during this crisis at LIAT. He said the country should not suffer twice with the loss to the fire and then possibly loss in jobs. He said he will urge ALP Political Leader, Lester Bird, to pen a letter to that effect to Spencer.
In the meanwhile LIAT has announced that international loss adjusters are scheduled to visit the fire-ravaged hangar site later today as investigations into the cause of the $100 million blaze continue.
According to the latest correspondence from LIAT on Tuesday, the assessment follows a visit by the company’s local and regional loss adjusters on Monday.
LIAT’s Corporate Communications Manager Desmond Brown said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined “and while initial data shows significant damage, a thorough assessment is continuing to determine the full extent of the losses.”
In the meantime, the regional airline continues to maintain normal operations throughout its network.
On Sunday, around 10:15 pm, a fire that lasted over three hours completely destroyed a LIAT Dash 8 passenger aircraft, a hangar and two office buildings operated by the airline.
Losses include documents that chronicle the history of the aircraft from their date of purchase.
The airplane that was lost was set to take to the skies in the coming weeks to help facilitate the influx of summer travel across the region.
There were no injuries or loss of life as a result of the incident, which has made international headlines.