christian-gosselin-nancy

Christian Gosselin and his girlfriend, Nancy Beattie, were on a CanJet airplane that was hijacked on Monday morning in Jamaica. ((Family photo))

Christian Gosselin called his family in the small New Brunswick town of Tracadie-Sheila early Monday morning with some alarming news: His plane had been hijacked in Montego Bay overnight.

"He was very shaken up and calm at the same time," his father, Alphonse Gosselin, told CBC Newsworld from the town about 40 kilometres east of Bathurst, N.B.

"He told us not to worry; everyone was OK."

People with family members who were aboard CanJet Flight 918 can call the airline toll free, 1-888-777-6429.

CanJet Airlines Flight 918 had just arrived in Jamaica on its way from Halifax to Santa Clara, Cuba, where Gosselin and about two dozen other New Brunswickers were to attend a wedding, when an armed man somehow forced his way onto the plane.

At least one shot was fired, Alphonse Gosselin said.

"Passengers were asked to give out all their money," Gosselin said. "[Christian] told his girlfriend to hide their passports in her back pocket, and also their credit cards."

They handed over their cash, as did many of the 174 passengers scheduled to be on the flight, most of whom were from the Atlantic provinces.

The hijacker has been identified as a Jamaican citizen who may have mental-health issues. His father is said to be helping authorities in Montego Bay with the negotiations.

Some in hotels

At some point, the passengers and two crew members were released, and are now being accommodated at hotels in the area. Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding even addressed them at the Sangster International Airport to assure them everything possible was being done to resolve the situation and get them on their way to their destination.

"My son called and he was kind of shaken up, but he said everyone in the crew, in the gang, is safe," said Alphonse Gosselin.

Christian Gosselin hadn't been on a plane since he was about 11, but that was more flying experience than his girlfriend, Nancy Beattie, had, Alphonse Gosselin said.

"It was her first flight and she was quite nervous, so I don't know if she'll ever fly again."

It was more than a little nerve-racking back in Canada, too, he added.

"My wife has been sleeping in the La-Z-Boy since 2:30 this morning and I've been on the couch watching CNN," he told Newsworld.

Flight attendant helped negotiate release

The mother of another hijacking victim said a flight attendant on a CanJet plane helped negotiate the release of the passengers.

Cheryl Spear of St. George, N.B., said her son Jamie called her from Jamaica at 2 a.m., as soon as he was released from the plane.

He described two hours of terror, as an angry gunman waved his weapon around, threatening passengers.

Spear said a stewardess was instrumental in calming the man, and securing the passengers' release.

"The stewardess from the back seemed to be able to calm him and tried to talk reason with him into letting them off if they left their money and wallets there," Spear said.

"And that seemed to have worked for him and that seemed to be the way they were able to get off of the plane."

Spear said her son and his girlfriend have no money and or wallets, but did manage to keep their passports. She said they're staying in a hotel, waiting for arrangements for a trip home.

Community concerned

Claude Landry, the MLA who represents Tracadie-Sheila, said he stopped at a convenience store in the small northeastern town of about 4,500 on Monday morning and everyone was talking about the hijacking in Jamaica.

Landry said he knows many of the families who were on the plane, including the Gosselins and the couple who were getting married.

"Hopefully there is a happy ending. It is quite scary," Landry said.

"You are going on holidays, having fun, you are going for a wedding. And suddenly everything is upside down."