Commodore to determine way forward with crash search

(RBDF Photo by Marine Seaman Michael Turner)

Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commodore Tellis Bethel suggested yesterday that after nearly three weeks of searching for missing pilot Byron Ferguson and the Piper Aztec plane that went down in waters off western New Providence, his organization will make a determination about continuing those efforts in a matter of days.

“We are in the search and recovery mode and there has been no new finds from that,” he said.

“And so, we are just going to see over the next couple of days… what comes up and make a determination from there.”

The U.S. registered aircraft Ferguson was flying plunged into waters two nautical miles from the airfield at Lynden Pindling International Airport on November 8.

He was en route from West Palm Beach, Florida and was expected to join his family to travel to South Africa in celebration of his father’s birthday.

RBDF Commander Shone Pinder told Eyewitness News on Monday that while the search and recovery effort was ongoing, it was not being conducted at the same “pace that existed a few days ago”.

“…What we have done is we have pretty much allowed for our surface craft that are patrolling the area to maintain a lookout for anything that may be telltale signs that [could] assist the Air Accident Investigation [Department] as it relates to any debris or any other significant finds,” Pinder told Eyewitness News.

Divers were not sent into the water Monday.

At the time, Pinder was unable to say when the next scheduled dive search would take place.

“I don’t know and I can’t say… for how long the actual [search] — this stage — will continue,” Pinder said.

“The commander of the [Royal Bahamas] Defence Force will give his directives concerning that as it relates to ongoing efforts.

The RBDF was roundly criticized over its handling over the search and rescue efforts in the days following the crash.

Attorney General Carl Bethel also slammed the organization in the Senate, saying it was mind-boggling if authorities sighted a part of the aircraft on the night of the crash and suspended search efforts until the next morning.

After midnight, authorities said the search had suspended.

More than a week later, however, the Defence Force said its vessels left the area to refuel and get additional equipment, but the search did not suspend.

Authorities also reported on the night of the crash that a part of the aircraft was spotted.

Divers, however, were not sent into the water until the morning of November 9.

When divers returned to the same coordinates, the part of the aircraft could not be located.

A week later, volunteers and civilian divers located wreckage believed to be from the plane in waters near the crash site.

The RBDF later revealed it had also found debris, but the discovery was not reported at the time.

Bethel has insisted his organization made every effort to find the pilot and recover the plane.

However, he noted that communication could have been better.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has promised a full review of the protocols, procedures and agencies involved in the crash search and recovery efforts.

Meanwhile, the Ferguson family has continued to search.

A GoFundMe page launched in Bryon’s name on November 17 raised $25,000 to hire certified deep-sea divers, and specialized deep-sea dive equipment.

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