Haitian Hijackers Expect Bush, Get FBI Agents
Two heavily armed Haitians--apparently mutinous soldiers--commandeered a small private plane from Cap-Haitien to Miami on Monday, then meekly gave up in a remote part of the airport, expecting President Bush to greet them.
As the hijacking began, one of the Haitians waved a gun and shouted at the pilot: “Go Miami, go Miami, you go Miami!” The other man lugged aboard something bigger, what appeared to be an anti-tank weapon.
The two had hopped an airport fence, then rushed the Cessna 402 just after its seven passengers had climbed aboard. “We have many things to tell Bush,” the gunman insisted.
Pilot Duer Smedley was calm enough to attempt trickery. He faked a couple of false starts with the engine. The gunman grew panicky; he craned his neck to see if anyone was in pursuit.
Finally, the hijacker pointed his gun out the window and fired a shot into the ground. That straightened the pilot up. Smedley started to taxi out. “Fine, you want to go to Miami, we’ll go to Miami,” he said.
Then Smedley had another shifty idea, one that worked out. “I’ll line it up so you can talk to Bush,” he promised. “But I have to have that gun. You can’t keep waving that around.”
Just before taking off, the hijacker relented. He unloaded the weapon and handed it over. The two men then wedged themselves amid the passengers--four Haitians and three Americans--aboard the crowded eight-seater for the 3-hour and 20-minute flight from Haiti’s northern coast.
Smedley radioed a description of the situation to Miami. FBI agents and local SWAT teams were waiting when the plane touched down at 2:30 p.m. Smedley got off first. He saw the waiting authorities.
“Here, these men will take you to Bush,” he told the Haitians. The hijackers walked ahead, were immediately surrounded and were marched into custody.
The plane belongs to the Mission Aviation Fellowship, a Redlands, Calif.-based group that flies missionaries and medicines to remote parts of 26 countries. The flight was originally supposed to land at Ft. Lauderdale’s Executive Airport, where the group maintains many of its planes.
One passenger, elementary school teacher Cindy Cato of Tallahassee, Fla., had been visiting missionary friends. “I just prayed hard and the Lord saw me through,” she said.
It was not too harrowing. The Haitians, who spoke little English, were pleasant enough, Cato said: “They were just young kids and they were scared themselves.”
William A. Gavin, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the Miami office, said the men would be charged with air piracy. He identified them as Guillaume Berlioze, 25, and Fadael Milord, 29, both of Port-au-Prince.
This past week, Haiti’s government faced a coup attempt and an army mutiny. The rebellion was stemmed. The hijackers, Gavin presumed, were part of the losing side. Late Monday, the FBI still was questioning them.