Stowaway safety alert in Ecuador

The level of threat to safety standards at the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport has been raised from low to medium as from March 13 following the deaths of two teenage stoways. According to Ecuador’s Dirección General de Aviación Civil (DGAC), the decision was taken by the Tagsa concessionaire running the airport after the two teenagers fell to their deaths during take-off on February 26.

But the change was not revealed to the press until May 16 following an investigation of the incident. The announcement was made by Ecuador’s DGAC head Carlos Alvarez and Airport Security Director Jorge Herrera

Early in the investigation the team decided as a preliminary measure, in conjunction with the airport management, to raise the level of threat to safety from low to medium. Tje latter implies the need to maintain a constant alert regarding frequent circumstances which could alter the normal running of an airport, explained Herrera.

The two youths from the city of Cañar fell from a New York-bound Boeing 767-300 of Latam airline, matriculated CCC-CXG. The investigation detected that two persons entered the tail of the aircraft at 4.20am on February 26.

All 29 staff involved in the operation of the flight were interviewed and were apparently doing their Jobs but obviously something went wrong. Investigating any kind of complicity is the task of the prosecutor, added Herrera.

Apart from interviewing the 29, the investigating team reviewed 500 hours of video from 358 cameras and staged a re-enactment of the events of February 25-26 to determine the possible factors making the airport’s security system vulnerable. Flight documentation, inspection guides and staff lists were also studied.

These factors represent a concern for airport safety which must be resolved by Tagsa concessionaire, Latam airline and the firm within 90 days, rules the DGAC. But neither Tagsa nor the airport authorities have yet received the report.

The DGAC recommends increasing perimeter restrictions, tightening security controls, reinforcing patrols and reducing the number of accesses to restricted areas.