FLORIDA, United States, Friday September 21, 2018 – The son of the former principal of the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) has been charged in the United States after allegedly trying to steal an American Airlines plane at an airport in Orlando, Florida yesterday morning.
Nishal Sankat, a 22-year-old aviation student at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), faces charges of criminal attempt to steal an aircraft, criminal trespassing and visa violation.
According to law enforcement authorities, Sankat, the son of Professor Clement Sankat, jumped the fence at the Melbourne International Airport in Orlando and attempted to steal the commercial airliner, before being wrestled to the ground by a maintenance supervisor and a technician aboard the aircraft and subsequently being arrested.
The authorities said they did not know what Sankat’s motive was.
The incident caused the airport to be on lock down for five hours and all flights were suspended while law enforcement searched the airport and Sankat’s vehicle, which was later taken away.
Professor Sankat is quoted in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper as saying that his son had been “very depressed” earlier this week.
In a statement issued to the Trinidad Express newspaper on behalf of the family, Sankat’s parents said they were not sure what had transpired and the incident “acutely underscores to the family the need to be aware of the challenges young students face, especially those living away from home and family”.
“At this time, they have not yet been able to speak with their son, and since they have limited information, are still trying to ascertain all the facts surrounding the incident, and his well-being. As expected, their focus right now is on providing all the legal, mental, emotional and parental support possible,” the statement said.
The young Sankat has been attending FIT since 2014 and recently petitioned to graduate in 2019, according to university officials. He was been studying aviation management on a part-time basis and had taken part in some flight training.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Sankat received his commercial pilot’s certification in January, was qualified to fly multi-engine aircraft and was instrument rated.