NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Air accident investigators admitted Monday that they have learnt a number of lessons in the wake of the Byron Ferguson crash in late 2018, and asserted that new protocol which has been introduced has improved the processes involved in responding and handling air accident emergencies.
Byron Ferguson crashed his private plane in waters off western New Providence in November 2018.
Eight months later, air accident investigators have still not made a conclusive determination as to what led to the crash and they have also been unable to locate Ferguson’s flight plan and plane.
The search and rescue efforts eventually transitioned into search and recovery efforts and as time progressed there was public outcry in regards to the way various agencies handled the entire situation.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) came under heavy fire for responding to the scene with only four hours of oxygen to search waters for the downed plane and its sole occupant.
The RBDF and air accident investigators were also lambasted for the lack of communication with Ferguson’s family and their failure to provide consistent updates to media about their investigations.
Almost one year later, and on the heels of a July 4thair accident which left billionaire American Christopher Cline and six passengers dead, air accident investigators admitted that their blunders during the Ferguson incident helped them to create and implement new protocol which proved successful for the Cline investigation.
“No family wants to be inquiring on their loved ones or looking for information and cannot find it or not have someone to give them that kind of information. So, we felt it was very important for us to change the culture and have a point of reference so families can get information easier,” Major said.
The protocol overhaul has introduced an improved online presence which greatly assisted with information updates regarding Cline’s helicopter crash, according to Major.
“We’ve revamped and updated our website, we’ve added a Facebook and Twitter page and we have been advising anyone that calls; we refer them to our website and social media pages which we were constantly updating as the information became available,” Major said.
“It worked very well in this case because as the family would call or media would call; we would refer them to our social media pages.
“We’ve had less calls because our social media pages have been updated.
While the Ferguson’s said they have forgiven local authorities for “dropping the ball,” the hurt of losing their relative still lingers.
“It’s still tough for us to deal with but just knowing that going forward something positive is derived from my brother’s unfortunate situation; I feel good about that,” Bjorn Ferguson said.
“We were really pained by the initial response and the posture taken by those in leadership who fought us against reasonable criticism.
“That was painful initially.”
Major could not confirm if other agencies which respond to air accident emergencies have adopted new approaches to emergency protocol.
“I cannot speak for other agencies involved in these efforts; we can only make recommendations but it is up to them to make the changes if they feel it must be done,” he said.
“But we have made the changes that we feel needed to be made and we see the positive results.