Man who hijacked plane responds to 'counseling,'surrenders no one is hurt

February 19, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

MIAMI -- A group of missionaries, peaceful people completing their service in Haiti, landed safely in Miami after their antiquated airplane was hijacked by a Haitian man who seized a hostage and fired a shot in the cabin, authorities said.

The incident ended yesterday as well as it could: no injuries, no additional gunfire, hostage released, hijacker crawling meekly to heavily armed officers, the nine passengers and two crewmen safely evacuated at Miami International Airport.

The heroes: a pilot who calmly flew a 50-year-old plane while a hijacker held a gun to his head and a hostage who used her faith and serenity "in a counseling fashion" to calm the gunman.

"Thank God it's over," said Joanne Bullers, whose husband, Sam, was the pilot. She watched the nationally televised landing from her home in West Palm Beach, Fla. "We've been sitting here . . . praying for the crew and the passengers."

John Pavlansky, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Miami office, said no one was injured and the hostage and passengers were recovering from their ordeals.

He identified the man who commandeered the twin-prop DC-3 in Cap Haitien, on the northern coast of Haiti, as Woody Marc

Edouard, 24.

Mr. Pavlansky said Mr. Edouard was charged with air piracy and would be arraigned today. If convicted, Mr. Edouard faces at least 20 years in prison.

The hostage, released unharmed, was identified by her co-workers as Karen Davis, a dispatcher for Missionary Flights International, the West Palm Beach charter airline that

owns the plane.

Mr. Pavlansky said Ms. Davis was collecting tickets for the flight when she was seized at gunpoint by the hijacker and forced to accompany him aboard the plane.

During the trip to Miami, as Mr. Edouard held the five-shot revolver to the pilot's head, Ms. Davis spoke with the hijacker in a combination of Creole and English, Mr. Pavlansky said.

"There was some religious talk," Mr. Pavlansky said. "She was able to communicate with him, and she was talking to him in a counseling fashion."

It worked. Mr. Edouard surrendered his gun to the crew before the plane landed, the FBI said.

Ms. Davis and all airline employees must feel "a definite call to missionary work," according to company literature.

Missionary Flights International, based near Palm Beach International Airport, serves "Bible-centered missions" at work in the West Indies, according to airline officials.

The company, in business since 1964, has three DC-3s and operates several weekly flights to Port-au-Prince and nearby destinations.

It was not known if the hijacker's action was related to the Haitian refugee crisis. Tens of thousands of Haitians have fled the impoverished nation in recent years, many of them intercepted at sea and returned by American authorities.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Port-au-Prince and a Haitian official said the hijacker was a Haitian soldier, but the FBI said it was unable to confirm that.

Although airborne hijackings from Haiti are rare, they are not unprecedented.

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