Canadian airline crew still stranded in Dominican after 6 months
File photo: Captain Robert Di Venanzo (left) was stranded in the Dominican Republic since spring of 2022.
Published Wednesday, October 5, 2022 7:26AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 5, 2022 7:26AM EDT
It’s been six months since a Canadian airline crew was detained in the Dominican Republic after finding drugs on board and reporting them to the authorities.
With court proceedings hindered due to Hurricane Fiona, the CEO of Pivot Airlines says there isn’t a day that goes by in which the crew of five don’t fear for their future.
“They've had just an exceptionally difficult period as you can imagine,” Eric Edmondson said. “They've missed birthdays and holidays. We’re coming up on Thanksgiving and they desperately miss their families.”
The crew was originally detained on April 5 after finding more than 200 kilograms of cocaine on their aircraft while at the Punta Cana airport.
Along with six passengers, the crew was scheduled to fly to Toronto that day. Instead, they were taken into custody.
The crew was released on bail later in April, but under the condition that they remain in the Dominican Republic. It is unclear if the passengers continue to be detained.
Edmondson said that Pivot has arranged for the crew to live in a “safe house” in a gated community while they wait for the court case to come to an end. They have been moved four to five times for “security reasons,” he says.
While the five Canadians are allowed relative freedom within the gated community, Edmondson says morale is incredibly low.
“They're scared for their lives. They're scared for the outcome of this bogus charge that they're facing,” he said. “They all have good days and bad days, but the bad days are more frequent as time goes on.”
Edmondson says a motion was filed on Aug. 31 to dismiss the case “fundamentally on the lack of evidence.” He says the crew hasn’t been interrogated and it would be impossible to gather new evidence at this time.
“We've been waiting quietly. We had some good momentum on the file for a couple of weeks,” he said. “And while we are progressing towards a good outcome, then Hurricane Fiona went through the Dominican.”
The airline is hopeful the crew will be able to come home soon, but Edmondson also described the Dominican system as the “wild west.”
At the crew’s July 21 hearing, the prosecutor tried to reverse their bail and send them back to jail. The hearing was adjourned because there was no English translator present.
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Global Affairs Canada said they are aware of the incident involving Pivot Airlines and that the safety and security of its citizens is their “first priority.”
“Canadian officials continue to monitor the situation closely, are engaging with local authorities, and providing consular assistance. Due to privacy considerations, no further information can be disclosed.”
In the meantime, Pivot Airlines is urging people to reconsider flying to the Dominican and to travel elsewhere for their vacation.