A group of 92 Utah tourists, stranded at the Cancun Airport on Friday because of Hurricane Gilbert, hope to leave Saturday morning for Salt Lake City.
Steven W. Kasteler, a spokesman for Ports of Call, a Denver air transportation service, told the Deseret News Friday night a 185-passenger Boeing 707-300 is being sent to Cancun to pick up the Utahns and 93 other passengers from Oakland, Calif., who are part of a tour group that arrived in Cancun Sept. 9.They were scheduled to leave Mexico to return home Friday, but Mexican airport officials closed Cancun Airport Friday after the hurricane's 120-mph winds threatened to hit the Mexican coastline.
"There are 6,000 people stranded at the airport in Cancun, so it may take a little more turn-around time than we normally experience. But the plan is to arrive at Cancun at 9 a.m. Mexican time (which is the same as Salt Lake time) and depart at 11 a.m.
"That means the plane should land in Salt Lake City at 3 p.m. or a little later, depending on whatever difficulties are encountered in Cancun and on the way home."
Kasteler said he has not heard of anyone in the tour group having been injured by the hurricane. "The whole group has been taken from the airport, and most are being housed at an LDS church in the area and everyone is fine."
He said the jet that will pick up the Utahns in Mexico is the same one that took the University of Utah football team to Champaign, Ill., Friday for a game with the University of Illinois.
"We are refueling the plane and putting plenty of food and beverages aboard in Champaign Friday night so the plane won't have to refuel or take time to put on stores in Cancun."
He said the plane has enough fuel for nine hours flight and will probably fly only seven hours from Champaign to Mexico to Salt Lake City. "The plane will fly around the hurricane, and how far out of the way it will have to fly remains to be seen."