ST JOHN’S, Antigua – A golf cart allegedly left unattended to charge for two consecutive nights has become one of the central focuses of the investigation into the June 10 fire that gutted LIAT’s hangar near VC Bird International Airport.
A well-placed source told OBSERVER Media that since the Friday night prior to the Sunday night blaze, the cart was allegedly left plugged in at the motor pool attached to the hangar.
The vehicle was used as a ground tool to transport materials to and from LIAT’s facilities, mostly during the week, when the now destroyed heavy maintenance hangar was being used for work.
According to the source close to the probe, information suggests the fire may have erupted on the cart and then the intense heat would have caused the oxygen tanks inside the facility to explode.
Other highly flammable items in the motor pool and hangar fuelled the fire that spread rapidly and destroyed the building that housed a Dash 8 passenger aircraft and other items.
Two adjacent office buildings that contained some of the company’s technical and accounting records were also destroyed.
Reports indicate no one was inside the hangar when the fire broke out, but those who were first on the scene reported seeing the blaze on or near the cart.
Their initial efforts to reach the Coolidge Fire Station were reportedly unsuccessful and one employee was said to have driven to the station to report the fire.
The source said several workers were pulled in for questioning last week and others are to be quizzed this week.
Among those speaking to the staff about circumstances surrounding the blaze are officers from the Fire Department, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and local forensic officers.
Communications Officer for LIAT Desmond Brown said he could not confirm any of the aforementioned information. He referred OBSERVER Media to the Fire Department.
Fire Chief Sylvester Jackson yesterday said the probe is ongoing and all information gathered thus far had been handed to the Police Strategic Communications (STRATCOM) Department.
Senior Sergeant William Holder of STRATCOM said, “The cause of the fire has not been confirmed with us. It has not been released to us.” The lawmen said personnel from Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) have been on the ground probing the matter and are working along with police from CID.
Meanwhile, National Security Minister Dr Errol Cort has disclosed he has sought the assistance of the Government of Barbados in providing an experienced forensic arson investigator to assist the Royal Police Force of Antigua & Barbuda, which lacks such professional expertise.
Late last week, LIAT issued a preliminary report estimating its insured loss to be approximately $35 million.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)