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Remembering LIAT Flight 319


Editor: It has been 19 years since the disappearance of LIAT 319, a twin otter plane with eleven passengers and two-crew members (the pilot and co-pilot) bound for the Arnos Vale Airport, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The twin otter plane was travelling from St. Lucia when a terrible storm caused the pilot to lose sight of the airstrip. They attempted to make another turn. That was not to be. The storm was so strong that the crew and all passengers perished.{{more}}

The plane disappeared to an unknown place, one that no one can locate, and from that day, it was the biggest tragedy ever recorded in the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

As many Vincentians, relatives and friends were gathered at the airport waiting to see their loved ones return home, it seemed like their hearts of joy turned into deep mourning and much grief as the rainy stormy night turned into much lightening and thunder in the sky.

What a sad day it was after waiting, talking and laughing, just to see the arrival of those who faithfully boarded that aircraft. It was a mourning night for all Vincentians when the news hit the airwaves of 705 Radio.

A nation mourns for loved ones

Some of us had been overwhelmed with joy to see those happy faces from flight 319, not knowing it would turn into a time to weep and mourn for those same faces. As I look back over those 19 years, I see a nation that had come together as one to mourn for those who perished in such a storm.

We will never forget the names of those who once touched our lives in one-way or the other. Their names and their kindness will stay with those who had the opportunity of meeting them while they were yet among us.

Tannis – a man of great dignity and generosity

Former politician, Hudson K. Tannis, was a man of great dignity and generosity towards others. Mr. Tannis played a great role in the private sector and in his own political arena. On several occasions, he acted as Prime Minister under the leadership of the first Prime Minister, a man that helped shape our country into what it is today – from statehood to an independent nation – the late Right Honourable Milton Cato.

Mr. Tannis was also appointed leader of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Labour Party (SVGLP) as the departing leader Mr. Milton Cato stepped down after being defeated at the polls in 1984 by James F. Mitchell.

Tannis’ political life started at an early age, where he travelled to another country to study and become a barrister-at-law, and he also pled many cases in the courthouse. I can recall Mr. Tannis being a kind and compassionate Good Samaritan to others, and he tried to help as many people as possible. He hardly said no to anyone asking for help. Mr. Tannis sometimes paid back money to banks from his own pockets that other people could not pay. He will never be forgotten in our hearts.

Not only did LIAT 319 take Mr. Hudson K. Tannis away in that storm. But also his beautiful wife, Mrs. Christine Tannis, a very devoted and religious person and one who loved the Lord. Before the storm, she was recently baptized and was empowered with the Holy Ghost.

LIAT 319 also took their only son Orway Tannis who was well known to others as he recited poems with boldness before large crowds. Many of his peers will remember this youngster for his friendliness and the joy he brought to them. LIAT 319 took one established family together on August 3, 1986 in that stormy night. May their souls remain in perfect peace with God as He grants unto them Eternal rest.

How can anyone, or I, forget the former beauty queen, the one who charmed the hearts of many locally, regionally and internationally – Miss Donna Young. She had a friendly attitude and a great sense of humour. Donna Young will be remembered by many who worked with her at Barclays Bank International, and she was a person for the people, her talents as a member of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Leo Club, of which she was the president. She was full of life and energy in the prime of her life.

Donna’s smile would brighten up the room

Donna was a personal friend of mine during my work at “the Bounty Restaurant,” where we became much acquainted with each other. She would always look for me to serve her when she would come to Bounty for lunch. She would always make me smile when I was sad and having a bad day. When you want to smile, you just got to look at Donna, cause her smile would brighten up the room wherever she is, a bright and genuine smile. Donna, it has been 19 years since LIAT flight 319 took you away from us, yet to me, I can still remember your bright smile and your warm friendliness.

Where is LIAT 319 and our loved ones?

Though you were the beauty queen for our country, it did not stop you from being the Donna Young you were before you became famous and well known. She still loved the same people and loved more persons who travelled in her path of life. May your family, friends and all who ever knew you, remember you with joy. Just keep smiling.

We will also remember Robert Fraser who enjoyed fixing watches for people around St. Vincent especially in Prospect village. Others on Flight 319 will also be remembered – Allida Ollivierre, Buster Lockhart, Ruth Babb, Rufus Nelson, Keith Bobbins, Phillip Roache, Goria and Caputo.

The question that troubled most of us on that sad day was, “Where is LIAT 319, and where are our loved ones who disappeared on that day?”

May their soul rest in peace, and may we remember their joy in our hearts through the years.

George D. Ferdinand

Irvington, New Jersey, US.