Remembering LIAT Flight 319

LIAT 319

Written By Ashford Daniel

August 3rd, 2017 will mark (31) years since Vincentians at home and abroad were plunged into their most horrifically tragic air disaster in the history of commercial air flight in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

It was on August 3, 1986, that LIAT flight 319 disappeared while attempting to land at the Arnos Vale airport (now renamed The ET Joshua Airport). While all incidents that result in loss of lives are tragic, the untimely deaths of the thirteen souls on board were particularly stinging to all sections of the Vincentian society.

That single flight not only combined a unique mix of some of the most progressive nation builders in our country at the time, but also brought grief to our regional and international territorial relatives.

Quite possibly the first face that comes to the minds of those of us who were around twenty-five years ago and now recall that stormy Sunday night is that of Donna Young.

Former Miss SVG & Miss Carival 1984 -Donna Young : Photo FB

Donna epitomised the youthful beauty, charm, female empowerment and potential of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

 Donna was a bank worker, employed with Barclay’s bank. She had just turned age twenty and was coming back from a holiday trip to America. Donna had won the Miss SVG, and Miss Carival shows right here at home in St Vincent in the year 1984.

Donna Young also held the Miss OECS title as well. Her smile lit up the stage like no other. One could not help but love Donna Young.

To fully appreciate the connection that the Vincentian public had with Donna Young, think of her as the late Princess Diana of the UK or President John F. Kennedy (JFK) of the United States of America. Indeed, Donna was our own Vincentian Princess. She was royal.

Robert Fraser,watchmaker who was physically challenged

Also on that ill-fated flight was a watchmaker who was physically challenged. Imagine a gentleman in his wheel chair and is out and about daily taking orders and repairing watches.

That was the fortitude of Robert Fraser, who was born with no legs. Disability was never going to be his inability! Robert Fraser was on the flight, coming back home from a seminar in St Lucia that focused on persons like himself who could not walk or had other physical challenges.

Then there was a family of husband, wife and eight-year-old son who perished that August night. Again, it is expected that everybody’s death will be mourned, but, alas, this was not the average Vincentian family.

Former Opposition leader Hudson Tannis, along with his wife and son

At just seven years into its political independence from Great Britain, St Vincent and the Grenadines was unfortunate to lose its political opposition leader and two members of his family. Hudson Tannis, along with his wife and son, Ordway,  was returning from a wedding in St Lucia and happened to be aboard flight 319.

Hudson Tannis was also the former Deputy Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines during the Labour Party government of Milton Cato.

The Grenadines also felt the loss of lives because a native of Bequia, a female passenger listed as Alida Ollivierre, was returning home for her friend’s wedding.

She was travelling on flight 319 with the bridegroom, Rufus Nelson, a Dominican.

Aldia Ollivierre of Bequia

Other passengers on the doomed flight included Busta Lockhart, a Vincentian who was on his way back from cutting cane in Canada. Another Vincentian passenger on board was Ruth Babb.

The remaining passengers were two Italians. So, of the thirteen persons on the plane, eight of them were Vincentians.

The aircraft was being piloted by two pilots, Phillip Roach of Guyana and Keith Hobbins of Jamaica. It has been said that the pilot captaining the flight, although he had been to SVG before, was now doing so as the pilot in command.

Apparently, he had an idea where the runway was. Unfortunately, owing to the mountainous terrain of the country, the airport is right next to the Caribbean Sea.

Because of the rainfall that night, the place was foggy. Visibility would have been extremely poor. Later, residents of Cane Garden will say that they heard the aircraft circling and then the sound of a sputtering engine.

Liat flight 319 aborted the first landing attempt. It was during the second landing attempt that the plane disappeared.

For days and weeks after, all non-disabled man, woman and child, took to the sea and shore to do what they could to find any signs of remains.

 Apart from a sighting of some floating oil, the remnants of that plane were never to be seen again. At least up to this day.It is said that the waters in the Grenadines are among some of the deepest in the hemisphere, measuring between 180 to 1000 feet.

A LIAT Series 300 Twin Otter similar to the accident aircraft

Along with our local coast guard, there were other coast guard ships from Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and Barbados.

In addition to all those boat searches, The Trinidad and Tobago government sent a helicopter, and the USA sent an aeroplane to participate in an aerial search and rescue effort.

PM Mitchell, at the memorial service for flight 319, Victoria Park Sunday, August 10, 1986

The following weekend one of the largest and most sombre memorial services was held at the Victoria Park, where everybody who is anybody in St Vincent turned out to sympathise with a grieving nation.

Saturday, August 9, 1986, and Sunday, August 10th  was declared official days of mourning and flags were flown at half mast across the country.

This is the last recorded air mishap that LIAT has had which had a direct impact on Vincentians.

I hope that our younger generation will at least take a moment today and pause in reflection of the wealth of human and Vincentian potential that we all lost that night.

One cannot help but feel that somehow our lives in St Vincent would have been that much richer as a result of the contributions made by the “unlucky 13” of LIAT flight 319, back on August 3, 1986.

May their souls enjoy eternal bliss.

This article was reproduced on New784 with the expressed permission of the Author Ashford Daniel.

Images of Fraser, Tannis, Ollivierre and Mitchell are the property of risingdano.wordpress.com.

The Original Article can be found here

Photo of Donna Young on the cover image for this Article originated from Facebook.

17 Comments

  1. I will never forget that day I had just turned 18 on August 1stookung firward to the present my father promised to bring back for me. When I received that telephone call it was the darkest momentun my life. I am WWinfield Tannis-Abbott son of the late Hudson Tannis along with Aunty Christine my Step Mom and Ordway my brother. May there souls continue to rest in eternal peace.

    • I remember that day like yesterday! The Island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines- was cold and dark. People were looking to each other for answers., Around that time I was 22 years old. The death of young Donna Young- took everyone around her age as a surprise. People were lost for words- and was wondering why, why…..Although Vincentian home- and abroad were sadden- by so many liives that have lost at sea, we couldn’t have held back the anguished we felt for that 7yrs old who was among the missing ones. But we can rest assure-Jesus promise that he will resurrect even those who have lost their lives at sea, etc…. May we take notice at heart- knowing that the dead will live again.?

  2. I was 7yrs old and attending a church service with my
    Great grandma at Salvation Army when they made the announcement.
    I remember this was one of (if not the biggest) tragedy to ever hit svg. Our Entire Hirouna was in mourning along with the neighboring Islands because of how many Life was lost especially them being such impactful sons & daughters of the soil.
    It was a Rainy, stormy, lightening & thunder kind of night.
    I do believe that Calysonian #Phoenix who sang “Let Me through Victoria Park” was also on Liat flight #319
    May ALL their souls continue to rest in peace.

  3. I remember this like it was yesterday- Donna was my former classmate at GHS and The Tannis Family were my relative. May their souls continue to rest in peace. They must not be forgotten!

  4. I was 13 years old but remember this tragedy like it was yesterday. Before I came to the United States, I went to Donna Young’s home in Cane Garden with a friend who was a friend to the family. It was less than a year after the tragedy and one could tell that the mom was still in great grief. God is good.

  5. I remember this day when my mom call me from SVG I was living in Miami at the time i was 18 years old I was in shock a few years before this happen my sister and i was in antiqua for canival hangout with Donna when she won miss carival also Mr Fraser was our niegbour in prospect may they souls RIP .

  6. Donna spent some time with members of the Leo’s Club of Vieux Fort earlier that day. May she continue to rest in peace

  7. May their souls continue to rest in Peace. And I pray that the families, friends and all love ones of the victims of that tragedy find Peace and Comfort in the Lord God Almighty.

  8. I remember that day. I lost two cousins Robert Fraser, and Donna Young. They were both cousins. FYI, Robert was born with malformed legs that were surgically removed when he was young. I have happy memories of both of them. Robert was also a Baptist preacher. Donna grew up in a staunch Charismatic Roman Catholic home. God bless their memories. See you later my dear cousins.

  9. Living in Barbados at the time and recall the shock and sadness on hearing the news while swimming. I knew several of those who perished. including pilot Philip Roach from Guyuana. Still weep over them.

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