12/1/08

Great News: Jiggs/Canadians Leaving Tomorrow

New York Islander Fan Central | 12/01/2008 02:39:00 PM
Toronto Star: Reports the Canadian Embassy has made arrangements for Jiggs McDonald, his wife and the Canadian tourist to leave the Country tomorrow.

Canadians stranded in Thailand to fly home tomorrow

Dec 01, 2008 02:26 PM

Dozens of Canadians stranded in Thailand by throngs of unruly protesters are expected to leave the country tomorrow in a deal worked out by the Canadian Embassy.

John (Jiggs) McDonald of Orillia, Ont., told The Canadian Press today the embassy in Bangkok made an offer of help to a group of 78 stranded Canadians.

McDonald is a legendary NHL announcer, who called games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames.

A group of 37, including McDonald and his wife Marilyn, accepted the offer.

He said they expect to be leaving their Bangkok hotel tomorrow morning local time to head to U-Tapao naval base for a Thai Airways flight to Hong Kong.

The tickets are being made available at the expense of the travellers themselves.

The tour group was originally scheduled to return to Toronto on an Air Canada flight from Hong Kong last week, but the main airports were shut down by anti-government protesters.
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FAN590: Has an audio interview with Jiggs McDonald in Bangkok from Saturday.
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CTV.ca: Has more on the announcement with the earlier update including Mr McDonald's comments.

It should be noted there is a -twelve hour time difference between New York and Bangkok, Thailand.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
This will be the story here until Jiggs McDonald, his wife and the Canadian Tourist have left the county and arrive home safe. Fantastic news something has been arranged.
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Updated 4pm:
Globe & Mail Timothy Avery had the following article at 4pm EST.

Canadians stranded by Thai unrest to receive flight out
The Canadian Press

December 1, 2008 at 3:46 PM EST

Toronto — One week after they were stranded in Thailand by throngs of unruly protesters, dozens of Canadian tourists were finally preparing to depart Tuesday as part of a deal worked out with embassy officials.

The embassy in Bangkok is helping to extract members of a stranded tour group, some of whom have run out of medication and travel insurance, former broadcaster John (Jiggs) McDonald said Monday in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Of the 78 remaining members of the group, 37 — including Mr. McDonald and his wife Marilyn — have accepted the offer to fly out from a nearby naval base aboard a commercial airliner, at their own expense.

The Canadian tourists are generally in good spirits and in good health, but some have run out of medication they can't get in Bangkok, while others have travel insurance that's no longer valid, he added.

“We have at least three individuals in our group who were not able to secure medications that they needed,” said McDonald, a former NHL announcer and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“We still have several whose insurance companies have not gone about renewing or extending the courtesy of extending their travel insurance though this ordeal.”

Mr. McDonald, who has been expressing growing frustration with the lack of a concerted federal government effort to get the stranded Canadians home, said that same frustration is what prompted embassy officials to take action.

“The embassy people listened to our pleas and in fact became agitated, as did some of our members, with the response they were getting,” he said.

“I don't think [Ottawa] saw the seriousness of the situation, and may not see the seriousness now.”

The tour group was originally scheduled to return to Toronto on a flight from Hong Kong last week, but Bangkok's main airports were shut down by a surging protest movement demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

Since the protesters seized the airport last Tuesday, all commercial flights have been suspended in and out of Bangkok. The protests, which come at the height of the tourist season, also halted vital postal air services and the arrival of everything from specialized medicines to raw fish for Bangkok's Japanese restaurants.

In an interview from her home in Minneapolis, McDonald's daughter, Susan DeSimone, said those flown out by the embassy will be able to rebook their original tickets for a new departure date once they arrive in Hong Kong.

“They may be able to depart immediately, or they may have to wait a day or two in Hong Kong, which would be at their own expense,” she said.

The tour group originally had 82 Canadian citizens, but four of the tour members separated from the group either Sunday or Monday and made separate arrangements to get home, Ms. DeSimone said.

Mr. McDonald said the Canadians were never in any immediate danger from the violence that has erupted periodically during the unrest, but have been growing fearful of the possibility the situation could quickly escalate.

“It hasn't occurred near us, but there was always that threat,” he said. “We felt, from time to time, that if it were to escalate that this is where it would come and that's why we were asking to get us out of the country.”

He said federal officials in Ottawa seemed to think the group should treat the crisis as an opportunity to extend their vacation.

“They're of the opinion that it's a great place to live and be, that we were on an extended vacation here in a very wonderful part of the world.”

Mr. McDonald said he was unable to explain why nearly half the group chose not to take advantage of the embassy's offer.

“I'm surprised that not everybody jumped on it.”
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Updated:
An email from Susan DeSimone with news of return --

On Monday evening in Thailand, the Canadian Embassy made an offer of help to a group of 78 Canadian citizens stranded in Bangkok. They expect to be leaving their hotel Tuesday morning, 12/2 (the evening of 12/1 for us) to head to U-Tapao naval base for a Thai Airways flight to Hong Kong.








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