The father of a Caribbean national, charged by federal authorities with trying to steal a jet plane and other felonies in Florida in the past week, says his son was in the midst of a severe bout of depression in the days leading up to the bizarre incident at the state’s Melbourne International Airport.
Former University of the West Indies Principal Professor Clement Sankat told the local Guardian Newspaper that while he knew very little about the incident Nishal Sankat “was very depressed” earlier in the week.
Nishal Sankat, 22, was a part time student at the Florida Institute of Technology reading for certification in aviation management. He has also had some aircraft pilot training but was far from possessing any aptitude to fly a passenger jet.
Authorities in Florida say they are uncertain what the younger Sankat was trying to accomplish when he boarded a commercial airliner that was being serviced by engineers earlier on Thursday.
He entered the aircraft after leaving his car with engine running curbside and made a dash for the plane, hopping over a barbed wire fence and entering the American Airlines plane that was under maintenance in a hanger. He was tackled by the engineers but escaped but was nabbed by police within minutes as he made a second dash towards the aircraft.
“The individual was confronted as soon as he was on the aircraft. The employee who was on the aircraft took appropriate action and escorted him off the aircraft,” Melbourne Police Chief David Gillespie said.
The Trinidad-based Sankat family said in a statement they were, however, providing mental, legal, parental and emotional support to Nishal as they asked the public to recognize that the family is under severe stress at the moment.
“What has occurred acutely underscores to the family the need to be aware of the challenges young students face, especially those living away from home and family,” the statement said.
Police searched his vehicle and home to determine what exactly had transpired but are still uncertain about a motive for the incident and whether it is terrorism related.
The Sankat incident has made it a bad week for Trinidad as it came just days after the feds identified two nationals as key financiers of the feared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, named them as businessmen Emraan Ali and Eddie Aleong.
“While coalition efforts have led to the collapse of ISIS’s self-declared caliphate, Treasury continues to aggressively target financiers supporting ISIS’s radical agenda. We are sanctioning individuals involved in financial facilitation to obstruct and deter ISIS financial operations in regions across the world,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Our actions coincide with the 10th meeting of the Counter-ISIS Finance Group (CIFG), which includes 52 countries and international organizations committed to disrupting critical sources of ISIS revenue to permanently prevent ISIS from accessing the international financial system.”
Several hundred Trinidadians have traveled to the Middle East in recent years to join ISIS groups, providing major security headaches for local officials.