FLORIDA, United States, Tuesday October 2, 2018 – The Trinidadian aviation student who tried to steal an American Airlines plane at an airport in Florida last month, is to be deported to the land of his birth tomorrow, and will be barred from entering the United States again, under a plea deal he reached with prosecutors.
And law enforcement officials in the twin-island republic say they’re prepared for his return home.
Nishal Sankat – the 22-year-old aviation management student at Florida Institute of Technology and son of former principal of the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, Professor Clement Sankat – yesterday pleaded guilty to the charge of burglary of a conveyance. Prosecutors dropped charges of trespassing and grand theft.
He was sentenced to time served at the Brevard County Jail Complex – 12 days – where he had been on suicide watch; and ordered to pay US$909 to cover the cost of the Melbourne Airport Police Department investigation into the incident which took place at the Melbourne International Airport in Orlando, Florida.
His commercial pilot’s licence, which he received in January, is also being revoked.
“The plea was part of an agreement reached after an extensive investigation by Melbourne Police, Melbourne Airport Police, Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the FBI found Sankat acted alone and was suffering from depression and mental health issues when he boarded the American Airlines jet on September 20, 2018,” a statement from the State’s Attorney General’s Office said.
Sankat, a dual citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and Canada, had no prior criminal history.
In the early hours of September 20, he got out of his car – which he left idling – outside the Melbourne International Airport, jumped the perimeter fence and boarded a plane which had been parked for maintenance. He was confronted by a maintenance supervisor and a technician aboard the aircraft and was subsequently arrested by police.
The incident triggered an airport security lockdown which lasted five hours.
Prosecutors said Sankat planned to steal the plane to harm himself.
Professor Sankat had told the media in Trinidad and Tobago after his son’s arrest, that he had been very depressed earlier that week.
In a statement issued today, Minister of National Security Stuart Young said he had been contacted by US authorities and informed of Sankat’s deportation, and that law enforcement authorities, including the Immigration Division and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, were on standby to receive him.
“I wish to state that all arms of our law enforcement that deal with returning deportees have been notified and are prepared to receive Mr. Sankat, in the usual course of a returning national who has been deported. The Ministry of National Security is in contact with US authorities to obtain as much information pertaining to Mr. Sankat as possible,” Minister Young said.