Dash 8-300 Hijacking Ends Without Incident

 - October 19, 2006, 10:22 AM

Two men who used grenades to hijack an Aires Colombia de Havilland Dash 8-300 on September 12 surrendered five hours after the standoff began, ending a harrowing but injury-free ordeal for the 20 passengers and five crewmembers. The 50-seat turboprop had taken off from Florencia, Colombia, en route to Bogota, when at about noon local time a wheelchair-bound man and his son commandeered it.

After circling Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport for some two hours, the airplane landed at an adjacent military airfield, where after talking with a Roman Catholic priest and government negotiators, the hijackers began releasing women and children and finally the rest of the passengers and crewmembers.

The men, whom authorities identified as Porfirio and Linsen Ramirez, reportedly demanded reparations for Porfirio Ramirez’s disability, which resulted from a bullet fired by National Police during a raid of his house in 1991, an incident the courts have refused to acknowledge.

Negotiators handed a $43,000 check to the hijackers but the government said it would not honor it. Apparently the elder Ramirez managed to smuggle aboard the grenades because security agents conducted only a visual inspection after his wheelchair could not fit through metal detectors in Florencia.

In February 2002 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) hijacked an Aires airplane flying from Florencia to Bogota, forced it to land on a highway and kidnapped one of the passengers–a Colombian senator. That incident ended peace talks with the left-wing paramilitary group, which now controls about a third of the country. Authorities do not believe the Ramirez duo is connected in any way to FARC.