CanJet Flight 918
A CanJet Boeing 737-800, similar to that involved in the hijack
|Date||19 April 2009|
|Site||Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay, Jamaica
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737-8AS|
|Flight origin||Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay, Jamaica|
|Destination||Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Halifax, Canada|
CanJet Flight 918 (CJA 918, C6 918) was a flight that was on 19 April 2009 to have taken off from Sangster International Airport (MBJ), Montego Bay, Jamaica, bound for Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ), Halifax, Canada, but was instead seized before takeoff for hours by an armed, lone hijacker. This was the first incidence of a hijacking on Jamaican soil, and the second time a Canadian airliner has been hijacked.
The flight was operated on a Boeing 737-800, registration C-FTCZ. by the Canadian airline CanJet. Carrying 174 passengers and 8 crew, all Canadian, the plane was originally scheduled to leave MBJ at 11:00pm on 19 April 2009, due for arrival at YHZ at 7:15am the following day. However, at 10:30pm, local time, Flight 918 was boarded by a lone, armed hijacker – 20-year-old Stephen Fray of Montego Bay, calling himself "Rico" – who gained access to the plane brandishing a firearm and demanded to be taken to Cuba so he could defect there. The passengers were soon released, with testimony from them revealing that a flight attendant had convinced Fray to allow the passengers egress in exchange for their money. The hijacker did, though, continue to hold five crew hostage while negotiations, which included Fray's father and the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, continued.
Following the breakdown of negotiations, the police were ordered to take the aircraft, and, at approximately 6:40am the Jamaica Defence Force Counter Terrorism Operations Group members stormed Flight 918 and took the gunman into custody. Two special operations operatives entered through the cockpit window and replaced the copilot, while one of the operatives, impersonating the copilot, met with and overpowered the hijacker, who was reported to be "mentally challenged."
At the time of the hijacking, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, was in the midst of a visit to Jamaica, and, when informed of the event and release of some hostages, offered the use of his government aircraft to fly the passengers back to Canada.
Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a security analyst for CTV News and former Canadian Security Intelligence Service officer, expressed concern over airport security in Jamaica, given the visit by the Canadian Prime Minister at the time of the hijacking, which he opined should have placed security on high alert. The Jamaica Observer similarly reported on concerns raised in Jamaica over the privatised airport security's quality; the security was managed by a consortium, MBJ Airports Ltd., headed by the Canadian firm Vancouver Airport Services (25% stakeholder), with Abertis as a partner.
After CanJet sent an aircraft from its Montreal hub to retrieve passengers from Montego Bay and return them to Canada, Bruce Golding advised Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen to order an investigation into how a gunman was able to board an airliner in Jamaica. The Governor-in-Council further issued an apology to the passengers and crew of Flight 918 and offered a one-week vacation at a Sandals resort in Jamaica. Transport Minister Mike Henry also ordered a security review, which covered both MBJ and Norman Manley International Airport in the capital, Kingston.
The Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) commended the crew for their efforts in thwarting the skyjacking, and on 15 June 2009, the crew of Flight 918 was invited to meet with the Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean, at Rideau Hall.
On 1 May 2009, Stephen Fray was officially charged with assault, robbery with aggravation, illegal possession of a firearm, illegal possession of ammunition, shooting with intent, and breaching the Civil Aviation Act in connection with the hijacking. Fray was convicted and sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison.
On 20 May 2011, an appeal of Fray's conviction and sentence was launched in Jamaica's Court of Appeal. Fray's lawyer claimed in court that when Fray committed the offence, he was "suffering from a mental illness as understood in Jamaican law, specifically the Mental Health Act," adding that spending time in jail "would not help Fray or the society at large".
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- Cummings, Mark (21 April 2009), "Sandals Offers One-Week Holiday to CanJet Passengers, Crew", Jamaica Observer, archived from the original on 24 April 2009, retrieved 21 April 2009
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- "ALPA Commends CanJet Flight 918 Crew". Business Wire. 21 April 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
- Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Media - Photos - The crew of CanJet Flight 918 visits Rideau Hall". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
- Reuters (1 May 2009). "Jamaican charged over CanJet hostage taking". Canwest. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
- "Fray goes to Court of Appeal today". Jamaica Gleaner. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
- "Prison won't help Fray, says attorney". Jamaica Gleaner. 21 June 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
|Wikinews has related news: CanJet flight 918 hijacked|
- The Gleaner (Kingston), "Who is Stephen Fray?" (short bio of hijacker)
- Jamaica Observer, "Hijacker Stephen Fray, A Well-Mannered, Sociable Man" (short bio of hijacker)
- Jamaica Observer, "PM Orders Probe Into Airport Security Breaches"
- CTV News, "Hijacking indicative of airport vulnerability"
- Global News, "Timeline of ordeal on CanJet Flight 918"
- The Gleaner (Kingston), "The MoBay hijacking ... the journey"
- Toronto Star, "Anatomy of a foiled hijacking" (timeline of hijacking)