Pivot Airlines crew detained in Dominican Republic for months back in Canada, CEO says

WATCH ABOVE: Eight months after they were arrested and detained by Dominican Republic authorities, a Toronto-based Canadian aircrew has come home. As Sean O’Shea reports, the company and unions representing the employees say travel to the Dominican Republic may not be so safe.

The crew of a Pivot Airlines flight who were detained in the Dominican Republic for months have returned home to Canada.

In a statement issued Thursday evening, Pivot Airlines CEO Eric Edmondson confirmed the crew “arrived safely in Toronto and were reunited with their loved ones.”

“The crew has demonstrated incredible courage and resilience throughout the harrowing ordeal which saw them wrongly detained in the Dominican Republic for nearly eight months,” he said.

“Their steadfast commitment to public safety and the rule of law is a testament to the professionalism of all Canadian air crew.”

The crew was detained in early April, after local authorities alleged that drugs had been found at Punta Cana International Airport.

However, the Mississauga, Ont.-based airline has said the crew themselves were the ones who reported suspected drugs on board their aircraft.

After they shared their concerns with local authorities, however, the Pivot Airlines crew was detained — and the airline CEO says while they have remained in the country ever since, they’ve lived in fear, hiding from narco criminals furious with the crew’s decision to tell officials about the drugs.

In the statement Thursday, Edmondson said the airline is “tremendously grateful to all those who advocated on our crew’s behalf, including CUPE, ALPA, Unifor, Senator David Wells, as well as our government partners.”

“While we are relieved for the crew’s long overdue return, we know that this incident has taken a heavy toll on their lives, and the lives of their families,” the statement read.” For that reason, we are asking media and the public to respect their privacy at this time.”

Canada’s Transport Minister, Omar Alghabra, said he is “relieved” to see the crew back in Canada.

“Welcome back home!” he wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

In a statement Thursday, Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA) Canada President Tim Perry said the union is “relieved for the safe return of the crew and knows the incident has had a profound effect on all of those involved.”

“This crew did exactly what was expected of them by notifying the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, local authorities, and their company, after discovering and then reporting contraband on their aircraft, yet they remained trapped in this horrible situation for nearly 8 months.”

Perry said the crew exhibited “strength and courage” during the incident.

In a press release, Unifor said the union is “relieved” that its member, Bal Krishna Dubey, is “finally home in Canada in time for the holidays.”

“It’s been a long and exhausting journey for the crew,” said Lana Payne, Unifor National President. “Unifor supported our member throughout this ordeal and our union will continue to support him with all available resources as he recovers from this harrowing and traumatic experience.”

Dubey, a part-time electrical mechanic at Pivot Airlines, said he is “thankful” to be back in Canada.

“It’s been a long seven months,” he said in the release. “I am so thankful to be home and that Unifor gave me the support I needed to get here.”

— with files from Global News’ Rachel Gilmore

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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