Calgary photographer and 11 other Canadians held in Dominican Republic told they're heading home
It looks like a Calgary photographer held prisoner in the Dominican Republic for the past eight months is finally headed home.
Brittney Wojcik-Harrison was on a private plane, about to leave the holiday destination when she and the crew were arrested, accused of smuggling drugs.
Twelve Canadians on board have been stuck there ever since.
Wojcik-Harrison was wrapping up a brief vacation this past April when the charter plane she was on was boarded by police.
The crew called the authorities after finding drugs stashed in a cargo hold, but the police blamed them, and their seven passengers.
They spent the next several weeks in jail before being released, but were still forbidden from returning to Canada.
Wojcik-Harrison and her family here in Calgary just found out Friday morning that she will be coming home.
“I just burst into tears, I’m so excited to see her. It is a Christmas miracle, honestly,” said Bella Harrison, Wojcik-Harrison’s cousin.
“She was crying, too – she couldn’t believe it. She found out after we found out. She is shocked, too, and is really excited to come home.”
Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic say they've been investigating the case since the arrests this past spring, but are now agreeing to let everyone return home.
The 12 detained Canadians say the conditions they were kept in were deplorable, with crowded cells, cruel guards and often a lack of food.
Their release comes months after the plane’s owner, Pivot Airlines, and the federal government began pressuring for them to be set free.
“They’ve been through an emotional journey, up and down. They’ve had great days and bad days and like anyone, they would often lose hope and got really low. It’s going to be a lifelong ordeal they are dealing with – this is with them for the rest of their lives,” said Pivot Airlines’ Eric Edmondson.
Meanwhile, Wojcik-Harrison’s family says she’ll not only be dealing with the trauma of what happened there, but she’ll also need to rebuild her life here.
“She was starting a new career and had just moved to Vancouver, so she’s lost her career, she’s lost her home, all her belongings are in storage, seven months of wages – she’s pretty much lost everything. She’ll have to come home and start right from the beginning again,” said Karen Harrison, Wojcik-Harrison’s aunt.
“We just can’t wait to hold her. That’s all I can think about.”
The paperwork is being filed and the Canadians abroad have been told they could be in the air early next week.
Pivot Airlines say they think it’ll be closer to two weeks before everyone is back, but that they’ve come close four or five times since the spring to having everyone come back before it’s all fallen apart, so they won’t celebrate until everyone is actually home.