Virgin Gorda’s Taddy Bay Airport reopened for business on Friday two days after it was suddenly closed due to a technical issue with its sole fire and emergency vehicle earlier in the week.
A broken suspension spring left the truck, which was purchased in November 2018, inoperable, Premier Andrew Fahie said on Aug. 14.
Aviation safety regulations re-quire all airports to have at least one such functioning vehicle, he explained.
“I want to extend sincere apologies on behalf of the government and people of the Virgin Islands to all persons who were adversely affected by the closure of the airport,” Mr. Fahie said. “I am advised that the BVIAA is working diligently to have the fire truck repaired within the next 24 hours to 48 hours so that service at the airport can resume.”
In his statement, Mr. Fahie also announced that Coy Levons, the BVIAA director of operations who was acting as managing director, suddenly re-signed on Tuesday. He has been succeeded by Clive Smith, who was appointed to the positions of accountable manager and acting managing director of the BVIAA.
“The BVI Airports Authority apologizes for any inconvenience caused, due to the closure of the Taddy Bay Airport, and thanks the public for their continued indulgence as we strive to ensure that safety is maintained, at all times,” said Mr. Smith in an Aug. 16 press release announcing the airport’s reopening.
Cause for closure
Mr. Fahie did not explain how exactly the spring broke, but he outlined in his Aug. 14 statement and a July 16 address to the House of Assembly several issues threatening operations at airports across the territory.
Among these was the improper storage of the Taddy Bay Airport fire truck. The vehicle had been stored in the vicinity of the old fire station, which provided inadequate protection and left it constantly exposed to the elements, he said.
Prior to February 2019, construction of a garage to house the truck had been under way after a developer was awarded an $89,000 contract to build the structure, Mr. Fahie said. Development was later halted after the then-BVIAA Board approved an addition to the contract for the development of an office and a watchtower. These two additions cost $127,000, Mr.Fahie said.
“The work remains incomplete and there is still no garage for securing the fire appliance. This venue is not fit for that purpose, as is now evidenced by the breakdown of the vehicle,”Mr. Fahie said in the Wednesday statement, referring to the facility where the truck is currently kept.
This is not the first time the airport has suddenly closed in recent years for similar reasons. Hurricane Irma left the runway damaged and a firefighting vehicle flooded by seawater, which prompted an April 2018 closure. (The cur-rent vehicle was purchased the following November.)
At the time, there was dire need for improvements, officials said.“We don’t think it’ll make another week; we’ve got to be proactive,” said Denniston Fraser, then-managing director of the BVIAA, referring to the truck that was damaged during Irma.