Family of missing pilot files for judicial review

Family of missing pilot files for judicial review
Missing pilot Byron Ferguson

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The wife of missing pilot Byron Ferguson, whose aircraft plunged into waters off Nirvana Beach last November, has filed for a judicial review into the handling of the search and rescue efforts, Eyewitness News Online can confirm. 

Anya Ferguson is seeking a review of the decisions made on November 8, 2018, the night of the incident, including the RBDF’s failure to secure wreckage spotted on the night, the reported decision to call off the search until early the next morning; and other related matters.

She is represented by attorneys Bjorn Ferguson and Christina Galanos.

The respondents are listed as Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Tellis Bethel, Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson, the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority Director Charles Beneby and the Office of the Attorney General.

When contacted, Bjorn Ferguson said: “They had a duty to secure the wreckage. If you read Aviation Act, they must secure the wreck, and the commodore said he made the decision not to do it… He can’t do that. And you can’t call off a search and rescue three hours into a search, especially under the circumstances. So, we have filed for a judicial review.”

Byron Ferguson departed the West Palm Beach Country Park Airport at approximately 7.25 pm on November 8, 2018, according to an interim report obtained by Eyewitness News Online.

He was en route to Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) with a load of cargo on board.

But the pilot never made it.

Shortly before the aircraft plunged in waters approximately 2.3 nautical miles from the approach end of runway 14 of LPIA, Ferguson advised Air Traffic Control he was experiencing engine problems.

In the hours after the crash, authorities advised that they saw debris believed to be from the aircraft; however, when they returned to the same area the following morning, they were unable to locate the wreckage.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and several RBDF patrol vessels responded the incident.

In the days that followed, volunteers and civilian divers found parts of a wrecked plane believed to be from the crash.

At the time, RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethel said: “No efforts were made to secure the aircraft because our priority right then and there was to look for persons who might have been alive in the water”.

The commodore defended the efforts of the defense force.

He admitted; however, that the RBDF poorly communicated details of its investigation into the plane crash.

The incident was one of intense public scrutiny as law enforcement agencies, particularly the RBDF were put under the spotlight.

The Ferguson family, and Attorney General Carl Bethel, berated the RBDF over the organization’s handling of the initial search and rescue effort.

The search for the wreckage slowed in late November.

In the subsequent months, the RBDF’s routine patrols were tasked with keeping a look out for anything that might be related to the crash.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis promised a full review of the “protocols, procedures and agencies involved”.

An interim report into the crash prepared by the Air Accident Investigation Department, noted the pilot, major parts and components of the aircraft — a Piper Aztec PA-23-250 — and an undetermined amount of cargo were never recovered as the aircraft was lost to the ocean.

The AAID also noted the sole objective of the investigation of an accident or incident is to prevent future accidents or incidents and not to “apportion blame or liability”.

A final report is expected to be released in early 2020.

Bjorn Ferguson added: “When the final report on the incident is released, we will consider further legal options.”