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Nation mourns loss of former Airport Authority CEO

It was a very sad day for many Antiguans and Barbudans yesterday, as news broke that former CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority (ABAA) Stanley Smith passed away tragically in a car crash in the US.

Aviation officials in Antigua spoke briefly with Observer to confirm the devastating news.

Smith, a graduate of the University of West Indies and Loughborough University in England, was the Chief Executive Officer of Strategic Aviation Solutions in Miami at the time of his untimely passing.

In his country of birth, Jamaica, he worked as a Senior Director of Operations for NMIA Airports Limited and Assistant Operations Manager for Airports Authority of Jamaica.

On Tuesday, tributes abounded on social media reflecting on the man that Smith was.

“Rest in peace to the best boss ever,” said an employee of the VC Bird International Airport.

“This one really hit me. When I used to work at the airport, he was just always kind to us. This is just a shock,” said a former VCBIA employee.

A statement issued last night from the Ministry of Civil Aviation testified to Smith’s “considerable technical and administrative expertise”.

“He was the airport CEO during the transition from the old terminal building to the current modern terminal, a transition which he successfully managed in a smooth and virtually seamless manner,” it said.

“Mr Smith will be remembered for his quiet and approachable manner and his commitment to the overall development of the airport and indeed to the overall progress of the airport and its staff.

“His commitment to professionalism and aviation safety and security was manifest at all times as he successfully led the airport team through various challenges and opportunities, ranging from the international Ebola health emergency to the construction of the region’s first airport solar farm,” the statement added.

Smith’s legacy has even touched the media world as one former Antiguan-based reporter, Martina Johnson, spoke briefly on the person that he was.

“It was a pleasure to interview Stanley Smith for a feature on the Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority some years ago. He was such a humble, sincere human being whose staff expressed great respect for him. RIP Stanley,” said Johnson.

Smith died in a horrific car crash in Dania Beach in Broward County, Florida, on Monday afternoon.

It is being reported that he had been driving his blue Jaguar SUV when it crashed into a concrete utility pole.

Surveillance video showed the moment the vehicle slammed into the pole, then became engulfed in flames.

Good Samaritans used a ladder to break the car’s window and pulled two passengers, a woman and her daughter, from the fiery wreck. The woman, who is an Antiguan national, sustained severe burn injuries and fractures, as did her daughter.

Smith had been at the helm of ABAA for seven years, having been recruited for the job in 2012 under the previous United Progressive Party (UPP) administration before he resigned in 2019 following a controversial series of events.

His resignation followed his refusal to accept a letter of suspension from the ABAA’s Board of Directors. Smith then filed a constructive unfair dismissal claim against the government that same year.

Meanwhile, prayers and well wishes have been overflowing for the young mother and child involved in the crash.

Family members and friends of the young woman have flocked to social media asking users to keep the entire family in their prayers at this time. When Observer media reached out to one relative, we were informed that the family does not wish to speak to any media at this time.

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