Christina Carello knows she is a good stewardess. It has been supporting vacationers and executives around the world for 14 years. What she didn’t know, until a series of sensational events, is that she’s also a pretty good detective.
Thorough searches of the 33-year-old Ontario woman revealed that key evidence had been tampered with, in a forensic ordeal that has kept her and her airline crew trapped in the Dominican Republic for more than seven months .
The nightmare began on April 5, 2022, when the Pivot Airlines crew made final preparations to bring seven Canadian passengers back on a charter flight from Punta Cana to Toronto. Carello was on the plane when pilot Rob Divananzo made an announcement.
“The pilot actually came out of the cockpit and put on a PA system, letting the passengers know they had to disembark because they found something on the plane,” Carello told W5.
Passengers disembarked and made their way to a VIP lounge while Christina and the rest of the crew remained on the tarmac. They watched in horror as a large black duffel bag, tied with a yellow rope, was pulled out of the plane’s avionics bay – a compartment under the plane that houses computer systems.
“We didn’t know what it was. It could have been a bombshell,” Carello said.
But it wasn’t just a bag. There were eight. And it wasn’t a bomb. It was 210 kilograms of cocaine.
Carello says heavily armed Dominican Drug Squad officers eventually appeared and lined the crew and passengers in front of the 50-seater jet.
“The guy said, ‘I’m going to put some powder in the packet. If it turns blue, it’s positive for cocaine.’ And he turned blue. And then he said we were all detained. Then we were put in handcuffs. We were all in shock. No one knew what to say,” she said. declared.
The crew spent nine days in jail, then months under virtual house arrest, without passports, on a no-fly list and living in fear of retaliation for reporting drugs and disrupting a cocaine pipeline to Canada .
They were never questioned by the police. And then, out of the blue, on November 10, 2022, the district attorney dropped the case against them. The crew and seven passengers are now back in Canada.
For the first time, Carello recounts how she found out that someone had doctored the airport surveillance video taken the day before the drugs were discovered. This is a discovery that proves that neither the crew nor the passengers could have physically loaded the drugs onto the plane.
Christina Carello in her stewardess uniform (Photo provided)
About three months after their detention, the Dominican prosecutor shared hours of raw surveillance video from the Punta Canada airport with lawyers for Pivot Airline. The crew, living in their guarded safe house, had access to the video and spent hours reviewing it.
Christina, with a notepad in hand, had taken about four hours to watch the footage when she hit the jackpot.
“I was tired, right? So I was like ‘Am I…are my eyes crazy?’ I had to keep playing it back and forth. I think something is obviously wrong there.
While everyone who viewed the video – including lawyers and investigators – focused on the plane, Carello was staring at the timestamp. She noticed that 40 minutes had been deleted from the video.
But then she found something else. Buried deep in an ill-named folder, she discovered another video from a different angle. One that has not been edited. Carello yelled at the other four crew members.
“I said, ‘I need you to look at this and see if I’m crazy, if I see this right.'”
In the unedited video, you can see a Punta Cana airport truck approaching the plane around 3:30 a.m., and over the next 25 minutes, large black bags accumulate and then disappear in the belly. from the plane.
Lawyers for the crew and passengers confirm that hotel surveillance video shows no one left their hotel overnight.
So who edited the airport surveillance video? Pivot Airlines CEO Eric Edmondson said if Dominican authorities wanted to know, the investigation would not be difficult.
“What we have learned is that the evidence was collected at the Punta Cana airport security office. The people who have the power to edit this video can only use…fingerprints for editing .I think it should be a fairly easy piece of work to figure out who made it, given the time of day and when it was edited,” Edmondson said.
W5 broadcasts Saturday evening at 7 p.m. a special investigation into mysterious and shady events in the Dominican Republic and Canada around attempts to smuggle 210 kg. of cocaine in Canada.
Christina Carello, meanwhile, is trying to put Nightmare in Heaven behind her.
“I think I’ll take maybe a month or two [off work], but my passion is to fly. I won’t leave him.”
Will she ever return to the Dominican Republic?
Watch the W5 documentary ‘Cocaine Cargo’ Saturday at 7 p.m. on CTV
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