No survivors after plane crashes near Le Galion

POSTED: 05/7/12 9:43 PM

GRAND CASE/St. Martin — A medical emergency flight crashed near Le Galion on the French side early Saturday morning shortly after take-off from the airport in Grand Case, killing all four aboard, including a honeymooning cruise ship passenger from Cyprus who suffered heart trouble..

The plane was carrying the tourist to the French island of Martinique for specialized cardiac care, according to a nurse at the St. Maarten Medical Center who declined to be identified because she was not authorized to release the information. The plane crashed around a quarter to three in the morning.

A Cyprus Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of ministry regulations, identified the victim as Panagiotis Vryonides of Nicosia and said he was around 30 years old. The official also said that a diplomat from Cyprus’ embassy in Washington D.C. will travel to Martinique, where Vryonides’ wife is located, to offer support.

The government of Martinique said in a statement that a doctor and nurse also were aboard the plane. They were identified as Jean-Michel Dudouit and Gerard Omere of the Pierre Zobda Quitman University Hospital Center in Fort-de-France, director Daniel Riam said.

The Piper Cheyenne III, owned by Transports Aeriens Intercaraibes, crashed four minutes after takeoff from L’Esperance Airport in Grand Case. Initially the plane was believed to have crashed between Pinel Island and Tintamarre. Later search efforts expanded to the nearby Le Galion.

According to Frans Nieuwenhoven, operational manager of the Sea Rescue, that is where body parts and some parts of the plane were found. “On Saturday morning pieces of the plane and pieces of bodies were found near Le Galion. There are no survivors. The impact was so high that everybody was cut to pieces,” Nieuwenhoven told reporters.

Martinique officials said they had originally sent another plane that experienced mechanical problems upon arriving at Princess Juliana airport in St. Maarten and it was replaced by the plane that crashed.

The Greek-Cypriot patient, Vryonides, was aboard the cruise ship Allure of the Seas when he fell ill. Initially he would be taken by a plane from Princess Juliana International Airport to Martinique, but because the designated plane had technical problems, Vryonides was taken to Grand Case for the emergency evacuation with another plane. His wife had already traveled to Martinique on a commercial flight.

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