Many Saint Lucians were shocked yesterday to learn of the wheelchair-bound passenger who was intercepted with US$468,000 worth of cocaine at JFK International Airport.
According to reports 33-year-old Yoncela Stanley had just landed in New York from St. Lucia this past Sunday on JetBlue flight 886 when Customs officers noticed something was wrong with her wheelchair’s back seat cushion.
Suspicious officers summoned a K-9 unit which alerted them to the possibility of illegal drugs being present. A search of the wheelchair’s seat cushion revealed numerous bricks of cocaine weighing about 27 pounds, officials said.
Authorities in Saint Lucia should be concerned about the repercussions to air travel there due to the hypersensitivity to illegal drugs and terrorism involving flights into the U.S.
Clearly, the motorized wheelchair passenger was not adequately screened which led to the conveyance of the cocaine onto the flight. This highlights the glaring lack of drug or explosives sniffing dogs at our international airport which would make it even more difficult for these incidents to occur.
(Motorized wheelchair screening procedure video)
Even more alarming is the chilling reality that instead of cocaine the contents of the wheelchair seat could have been explosives. What security measure, if any, were used in the screening of that passenger.
Instead of a passenger being arrested for the smuggling cocaine into the U.S. this story could have been much more frightening.
With an economy overwhelmingly dependent on tourism what are local authorities doing to prevent this from happening again, and will this incident cause more rigorous screening of passengers from Saint Lucia upon entry into the U.S.?