A Calgary photographer was jailed for several days in the Dominican Republic after a flight crew found and reported a bag containing hundreds of pounds of cocaine stashed in the plane on which she was meant to fly home.
Brittney Wojcik-Harrison is one of six passengers and five Pivot Airlines crew members who were bound for Toronto on a chartered jet from Punta Cana on April 5. Before takeoff, a mechanic with the flight crew notified authorities in Canada and in the Dominican he’ d found a bag secreted away in the plane’s avionics bay. Police later found that bag and seven more stowed away in the plane contained more than 200 kilograms of cocaine, worth around $25 million.
All 11 were jailed after the discovery, some alongside accused drug traffickers in communal cells. They were later released on $23,000 bail — a decision Dominican prosecutors are now contesting — but are required to remain in the country as local authorities continue their investigation, a task Pivot has stated could take up to a year.
The airline has hired an international security firm to protect its passengers and staff while they remain in the Dominican as the crew has received credible death threats from unknown sources.
“She’s either going to be trapped in a foreign country for a year, or she’s going to be trapped in a prison in a foreign country for a year and that makes me sick to my stomach,” Brandon Harrison, Wojcik-Harrison’s cousin, told Postmedia on Friday.
He said Wojcik-Harrison was vacationing in Punta Cana when she was arrested and detained by Dominican officials and the family has received little information from the Canadian government about her situation.
“They can’t and won’t give us any sort of detail,” said Harrison. “We don’t really know what’s going on with Brittney.”
In an emailed, Global Affairs Canada said it is aware of the incident involving Pivot Airlines in the Dominican Republic but declined to provide any significant detail about its response, stating: “Canadian officials are monitoring the situation closely, engaging with local authorities, and Providing consular assistance. Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed.”
In a statement on Friday, Pivot said the Canadian government needs to do more to get the passengers and crew home safely, especially with prosecutors presenting no evidence tying them to the cocaine.
“While we are grateful for the support of the Government of Canada in improving the safety of our crew to date, the simple fact is that they have not done enough to safely return our crew to Canada,” said Pivot.
“They miss their families. They fear for (their) lives, as well as their mental and physical well-being. And they want to come home.”
Harrison, too, feels the government needs to do more for his cousin and the others trapped in the Dominican Republic alongside her. He’s urging Canadians to get in touch with their local member of Parliament to push the government to take action.
“There’s only so much a few family members can do in that regard,” he said.
Wojcik-Harrison’s family has started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money for legal aid, food and a flight to bring her home, if possible.
— With files from Tom Blackwell, National Post