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Stranded students set to fly home

Bermudians stranded in Canada are expected to return to Bermuda today.

Mikaela Kawaley-Lathan, one of a group of Bermudian students marooned in Toronto after a WestJet flight home from Toronto was cancelled on Sunday, said a new flight was scheduled for 2pm tomorrow.

Ms Kawaley-Lathan, who travelled more than 2,600 miles to get to Toronto, said she was relieved but added: “I'm still a bit worried about quarantine and nervous something else will happen.”

Ms Kawaley-Lathan said the experience had been difficult and exhausting, but she had tried to be optimistic.

She said: “I was so glad that some of us stuck together — otherwise that day would have been so much longer and much more difficult.”

Ms Kawaley-Lathan, who also has a part-time job as a resident adviser at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, is one of several Bermudians who took up an offer to return to the island in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Karen Marino, 23, from St George's and a student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said last night: “I am ecstatic to finally be able to go home — but I refuse to celebrate until the plane is backing up with me on it.”

Ms Kawaley-Lathan added she at first was not keen to take Sunday's WestJet flight home — but wanted to be with her family. Ms Kawaley-Lathan said: “My job at the university was still operational. I had cooked enough food to last a few weeks and I had all my study resources.

“But it seemed silly not to take this chance to go home. My mum said it felt like we were given a gift and it would be silly to turn it down.

“Of course, I wanted to be with my family and I love Bermuda and didn't want to be locked out indefinitely.”

Ms Kawaley-Lathan said she packed up her belongings on Friday and prepared to return to Bermuda.

She admitted: “I was terrified of having to go through three different airports during an epidemic — not wanting to get sick, and not wanting to put other people at risk — but I had to get over that fear and get to the airport.”

Ms Kawaley-Lathan said she found out about the last-minute flight cancellation from other Bermudian travellers at the airport. She said: “People at the gate instantly started calling friends or family. There were sad tears, angry tears. The gate was instantly bursting with emotion.

“The pilot was just as surprised as we were. He said he was getting information, but told us that he wouldn't be allowed to tell us what he found out and advised us to try to find a WestJet agent.”

Ms Kawaley-Lathan said she was stunned at the cancellation news. She was told by gate agents that the Bermuda Government had closed the airspace around the island.

She said: “Of course, we didn't believe them. We tried to explain that our government had specifically set up this flight, but they were adamant that Bermuda had made the choice not to let us in.

“I explained to the other Bermudians that it was New York that had closed their airspace — not Bermuda.”

Mikaela Kawaley-Lathan (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 24, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 24, 2020 at 9:02 am)

Stranded students set to fly home

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