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Ronar Caballero Gomez, 37, appearing for court in Ennis on Thursday, charged in connection with three charges under the Air Navigation and Transport Act 1973 and one of criminal damage. Photograph John Kelly

Cuban Involved in Air Rage Won’t Get to Say Goodbye to Dying Father

A CUBAN  man, with a Paris address, who was flying to Cuba to say a final farewell to his terminally ill father, but whose actions aboard the flight resulted in the plane being diverted to Shannon, will now not get to say goodbye.
Ronar Caballero Gomez, (37),  with an address at 1 Avenue Becquerelle 92600 Asnieres, Sur Seine, Paris appeared before Ennis District Court in respect of an air rage incident on a Condor Airlines flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Holguin, Cuba, which diverted to Shannon on Wednesday. He was fined €1,000 arising from the incident.
Gomez pleaded guilty to engaging in behaviour likely to cause serious offence or annoyance to any person on board the aircraft on April 30; engaging in behaviour of a threatening, abusive or insulting nature by gesture with intent to cause a breach of the peace and being intoxicated on board the flight also on the same date contrary to the Air Navigation and Transport Act.
A charge of causing criminal damage to a seat on board the Condor Aircraft flight DE 3196 was withdrawn by the State subsequently.
After first appearing in court on Thursday, the defendant, assisted by a Spanish interpreter, was represented by solicitor Daragh Hassett.  The court heard Gomez replied “I’m not guilty” to the charges after caution.
He was granted bail on that occasion subject to conditions that he reside at a hotel in Shannon, that gardaí would retain his passport and that he remain at the hotel except for attending court. A final condition was that he would sign on at Shannon Garda Station at 6pm on Thursday.
Outlining the State’s evidence on Friday, Garda Shane O’Connor said the defendant, while travelling aboard the Frankfurt to Cuba flight, had come to notice having opened a bottle of rum on the aircraft. He was advised that he could not do this and the bottle was taken off him.
He was given a written warning by the pilot for his actions, and the defendant ripped this up. He proceeded to open a second bottle. An exchange then took place after a flight attendant attempted to calm the defendant down.
“The defendant pushed him (the flight attendant) and grabbed him by the wrist. He stood up and kicked out at his own chair from a standing position causing damage. I spoke to him myself but due to the language barrier he didn’t understand. A colleague of mine translated everything I was saying into French. It was clear to me he was intoxicated. His eyes were glazed and there was a strong smell of alcohol from his breath,” Garda O’Connor told the court.
He escorted the defendant from the plane and arrested him, before conveying him to Shannon Garda Station. “He remained uncooperative throughout at Shannon Garda Station,” Garda O’Connor said.
He explained that there were 248 passengers and nine crew on the flight and that they were subjected to a one and a half hour delay in Shannon due to the necessity of gardaí having to take witness statements.
Garda 0’Connor added that the defendant has no previous convictions.
On cross-examination, Garda 0’Connor accepted that the flight had been delayed by two hours before departing Frankfurt.
Mr Hassett, solr., explained that his client was “en route to Cuba, his homeland, to say goodbye to his father who is dying of lung cancer”.
He said although his client was clearly intoxicated, there was a certain level of difficulty with communication and that his client’s level of cooperation improved when a Spanish translator was able to assist.
He said Gomez expressed remorse. He said he works hard as a plumber earning €278 after rent, child maintenance, and after sending money home to his father who lives in poor circumstances.
“He has a fear of flying. He purchased duty free and drank from the duty free due to his anxiety. He wasn’t aware that this was a charter flight and he was not entitled to drink from his duty free. His view was that they wanted him to drink their drink and he had very little money,” Mr Hassett said in mitigation.
He said at 37 years of age his client had never come to adverse attention and it was “unlikely will ever get to say farewell to his father. He has saved for 18 months to spend a week in Cuba. Through his own actions he has lost that opportunity to say farewell with dignity to his father who is terminally ill”.
He highlighted that the defendant rarely drinks and that this incident resulted from a combination of his anxiety coupled with the delay in Frankfurt and his “foolish decision to indulge in duty free”.
“He panicked. He was essentially incarcerated overnight by the Irish police and was under house arrest in a local hotel last night. He extends his sincere apologies to the passengers, the pilot, staff, gardaí and everyone affected by this,” he said.
Judge William Early, presiding, said he could “understanding the vulnerability of Mr Gomez”, but that ultimately “he drank to excess and caused 248 passengers anxiety, and not only that but serious inconvenience”.
He imposed a fine of €1,000 and gave him four months to pay the fine.

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