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Tribute to a fallen professional and comrade

Tribute to a fallen professional and comrade



Economics of Airport Development

This week, I pay tribute to a fallen professional and comrade. On February 21st 2008, an aeroplane went missing in Venezuela, and was discovered later to have crashed, killing all aboard.{{more}} Among the many passengers who died on that tragic flight was Engineer Belen del Rosario León Araujo, a lady who spent over one year of her life working in St Vincent on the Argyle International Airport project, as the Head of the soil testing programme carried out on the airport site.

Belen del Rosario León Araujo, who was born in the city of Valencia, Venezuela, on the 20th October 1970, was an engineer for many years within the Ministry of Infrastructure of Venezuela, as the Head of the Soils Laboratory in Valencia. In 2007, she was transferred to the Ministry of Housing in Venezuela to work with the present vice-president of Venezuela, Architect Ramón Carrizales.

Belene, as she was popularly known here, visited St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the first time in September 2005, for one week, with a delegation of Cuban and Venezuelan specialists to evaluate the nature of the soil testing to be carried for the preliminary studies of the new Argyle International Airport. Two weeks after her first visit, she returned to St. Vincent and worked up to the end of 2006, in her capacity as Head of the soil investigations unit for the international airport project.

The soil investigations at Argyle airport site were conducted in a soil laboratory donated by Government of the Republic of Venezuela, which was operated by a team of Cuban and Venezuelan technicians from September 2005 to December 2006. The soil testing work included digging several test pits and drilling of up to 386 meters at many different points within the airport zone to take account of the heterogeneity of the soil and rock within the area. Following these works, extensive geophysical and geological studies of the soil and rock extracted were carried out to gather the necessary information to inform the final designs and the earthwork stage of the project. All of these works were coordinated by Engineer Belen León, who demonstrated a high level of scientific competence in these areas.

Although, clearly, an engineer of first class, Belene was a simple and friendly woman. She was well loved by all Vincentians and her Venezuelan and Cuban colleagues with whom she interacted during her year-long stay here. In the tragic plane accident near Merida, her native city, she was heading to Caracas on her way to Santiago de Chile, where she was to have continued her post-graduate studies in the Mechanics of Soil.

We, in St Vincent and the Grenadines, have benefited tremendously from the life and work of this fallen professional and comrade. On behalf of the management and staff of the International Airport Development Company, the government, and the people of this country, I extend our sincere condolences to the family of Belen del Rosario León Araujo and to all the people of the Republic of Venezuela who have lost sons and daughters in the recent tragic plane accident.