Guelph pilot Rob Di Venanzo, detained in the Dominican Republic along with his air crew since April 5 after reporting suspicious bags in their aircraft that turned out to be drugs, is back in Canada.
The Pivot Airlines crew landed in Toronto and were reunited with their loved ones yesterday.
Pivot CEO Eric Edmondson said in a statement Thursday night that the crew demonstrated "incredible courage and resilience throughout the harrowing ordeal" that saw them detained for nearly eight months.
He said it has taken a heavy toll on their lives and the lives of their families.
The crew was held in the Caribbean nation on April 5 after 200 kilograms of cocaine were discovered in the plane's avionics bay and reported to police in Punta Cana.
The two pilots, two flight attendants and one part-time maintenance engineer were jailed, then later released on bail after surrendering their passports pending further investigation.
Following the cocaine discovery, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Unifor said their members were arbitrarily detained, threatened and prosecuted despite following Transport Canada protocols and international laws.
"Their steadfast commitment to public safety and the rule of law is a testament to the professionalism of all Canadian aircrew," Edmondson said.
"Pivot Airlines 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."
The Dominican Republic's National Directorate for Drug Control said in an April 6 release that it found "eight black packages'' in the avionics bay of a private plane bound for Toronto from Punta Cana International Airport.
It said each package contained 25 smaller packets containing cocaine.
The directorate said at the time that nine Canadians, one Dominican and one person from India were under investigation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022
The Canadian Press