The Pivot Airlines flight crew, including two pilots, who had been detained in the Dominican Republic since April, safely arrived in Toronto on Thursday (Dec. 1) and have been reunited with loved ones.
After they touched down shortly after 7 p.m., an "emotional airport reunion" took place in a special pre-arrivals area of Toronto Pearson International Airport, as the two flight attendants, pilot, co-pilot and mechanic were greeted by family, CTV News reports.
The ordeal began in April when the airline’s crew on a flight from Calgary to Punta Cana found a mysterious bag aboard their aircraft and reported it to local authorities.
More bags were discovered, and local police in the DR say they soon found more than 200 kilograms of cocaine aboard the plane.
Crew members, as well as two pilots, two flight attendants and a mechanic were initially imprisoned before being released on bail.
However, for more than 200 days, they were barred from leaving the Caribbean nation.
“This crew did exactly what was expected of them by notifying the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, local authorities, and their company, after discovering and then reporting contraband on their aircraft, yet they remained trapped in this horrible situation for nearly 8 months,” said Capt. Tim Perry, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) Canada president, on Thursday.
“During their ordeal the crew exhibited strength and courage, while ALPA Canada worked extremely hard through all available means and diplomatic channels along with Pivot management, other unions, and government officials to bring these Canadians home.”
Following the cocaine discovery in April, the LPA, the Canadian Union for Public Employees and Unifor said their members were arbitrarily detained, threatened and prosecuted despite abiding to Transport Canada’s protocols and international laws.
In a statement, ALPA said it was relieved for the safe return of the crew and knows the incident has had a profound effect on all of those involved.
Pivot Airlines CEO Eric Edmondson said in a statement Thursday that the crew demonstrated "incredible courage and resilience throughout the harrowing ordeal" that saw them detained for nearly eight months.