Cancelled flight leaves students in Toronto
A group of Bermuda students were stranded in Toronto last night after an emergency flight to bring them home was cancelled at the last minute.
Karen Marino, a Bermudian student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, travelled nearly 800 miles to Toronto to catch the WestJet flight, organised to take Canadian citizens home from Bermuda, but also bring Bermudians in Canada back to the island.
She said last night that she arrived in Toronto at 7am and was preparing to board a WestJet flight to Bermuda yesterday afternoon.
However, she added: “All of a sudden, the screen said ‘cancelled'. We were so confused and some of us were on the verge of tears out of frustration and the disappointment over how we were so close to home.”
The 23-year-old from St George's said: “Halifax has pretty much closed up its borders today, so going back wouldn't be an option for me.”
She added that she and another five students from Bermuda who teamed up at the airport and were due to catch the flight were worried that, if they left Toronto's Pearson Airport, they might not be allowed back in.
But Ms Marino, who is travelling with pet rabbit Django, said she and her mother, Isabel Villacres, managed to arrange that she could stay with a former roommate at Dalhousie who lives 20 minutes from the airport who came to pick her up.
She added: “I'm so exhausted — I think we are just going to rest. We really haven't slept in for ever.”
Ms Marino changed her original flight home to last night before the shutdown of international air travel and faced being stranded in Canada for a month until the WestJet flight, which was scheduled to leave Pearson about 2pm, was arranged.
She said at 1pm she was ready to board along with her friends and other travellers when the shock announcement that the plane would not take off was made.
It is understood that the flight was cancelled because of problems at the Federal Aviation Administration's New York air traffic control centre, which meant flights in Bermuda airspace could not go ahead.
The problems also forced the cancellation of an emergency Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Bermuda to bring American citizens home, but also to get Bermudians back to the island.
Ms Villacres said last night: “I was devastated when she called me and said the flight was cancelled — I said ‘what is going on?'
“I could hear the kids trying to tell the agents they weren't correct and that this flight was organised by the Canadian Government.
“It was terrible as a mother — I'm waiting for her to come home and to be with me.”
Ms Villacres added: “The one thing we didn't want was for her to be caught up in the middle of all this and stuck in the middle.
“It's so heartbreaking — I just don't have the words. There were tears of frustration and tears of happiness when the flight home was announced and then I was crushed again.”
Ms Villacres said: “I know the Government is doing everything in their power, but it's not the Government it's the Federal Aviation Administration ... I know that these kids would have been home tonight.
“I can understand our government's position. It's not a normal international flight, it's a relief flight. Humanitarian.”
She added she “hoped and prayed” that “something transpires” today.
David Burt, the Premier, pledged last night that stranded passengers would be able to get back home. He said: “We are certain those flights will be put on.
He said: “As soon as we have information on those flights, we'll be sure to publish it.”
He added the Government was trying to find out how many residents were stuck in the US and Canada because of the flight cancellations.
Mr Burt said: “We are trying to ascertain those particular numbers at this point in time so we can have a better understanding of those persons that are there.”