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Trini Charged With Stealing Plane After Airport Breach

Guardian.co.tt – The son of for­mer Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies prin­ci­pal Pro­fes­sor Clement Sankat was ar­rest­ed and charged with at­tempt­ing to steal a plane at a Flori­da air­port yes­ter­day morn­ing.

Nishal Sankat was charged with crim­i­nal theft of an air­craft, crim­i­nal tres­pass­ing and visa vi­o­la­tion hours af­ter US au­thor­i­ties claimed he al­leged­ly hopped a fence at the Mel­bourne In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port in Flori­da and board­ed a com­mer­cial air­plane in a main­te­nance hangar.

The in­ci­dent prompt­ed the air­port to be shut down for five hours and caused two flights to be de­layed. It al­so quick­ly made in­ter­na­tion­al head­lines as me­dia hous­es ini­tial­ly felt it may have been a pos­si­ble ter­ror­ist threat, as he was on­ly iden­ti­fied as a Trinida­di­an stu­dent who had had flight train­ing and had en­tered in­to the US from Cana­da.

Sankat’s iden­ti­ty was re­leased to the me­dia by Fed­er­al Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (FBI) yes­ter­day af­ter­noon af­ter he was charged.

In a brief phone in­ter­view with the T&T Guardian, Pro­fes­sor Sankat con­firmed it was his son but said he could make no com­ment on the mat­ter as he had lit­tle idea of what oc­curred. How­ev­er, he did con­firm that his son had been “very de­pressed” ear­li­er this week.

Nishal Sankat, a for­mer Hillview Col­lege stu­dent, was study­ing Avi­a­tion Man­age­ment at the Flori­da In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy. The Flori­da school con­firmed in a state­ment that he was a part-time stu­dent at the in­sti­tu­tion and had com­plet­ed flight train­ing there.

Flori­da news out­lets re­port­ed that Sankat was chal­lenged by two work­ers who were on board the plane as he at­tempt­ed to en­ter the cock­pit. They asked him to show his badge au­tho­ris­ing his pres­ence on the air­craft. In­stead, he ig­nored them and at­tempt­ed to sit in the pi­lot’s chair. They work­ers tack­led him and af­ter sub­du­ing him one of the work­ers alert­ed po­lice to the in­tru­sion.

Fol­low­ing his ar­rest, Lori Book­er, a spokesper­son for the air­port, in­formed the me­dia of the sit­u­a­tion.

“At 2 am this morn­ing a ve­hi­cle ap­proached our ter­mi­nal and parked curb­side with the en­gine run­ning. A male sub­ject was seen run­ning from the car, jump­ing the fence run­ning across the apron and board­ed an air­bus 321 which was not in ser­vice at the time,” Book­er said.

Book­er told re­porters a ro­bot de­vice was used to en­sure noth­ing dan­ger­ous was in the parked ve­hi­cle left be­hind. The car was towed away af­ter it was de­clared safe. She had ear­li­er con­firmed the sus­pect was stu­dent pi­lot was born in T&T and had en­tered the Unit­ed States from Cana­da and held a valid Flori­da dri­ver’s li­cense.

The Mel­bourne Po­lice De­part­ment and the FBI re­spond­ed to the in­ci­dent while the US An­ti Ter­ror­ism Task Force was con­sult­ed to en­sure it was an iso­lat­ed in­ci­dent.

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