Missing pilot’s family enter phase two of search

Family seeking to raise $50,000, RBDF says search and recovery ongoing

 

More than a month after a small plane being flown by Byron Ferguson, 34, plunged into waters off New Providence, the Ferguson family has not given up its search and said yesterday it is preparing to enter phase two of that effort.

The family is seeking to raise $50,000 for a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that can reach depths of up to 13,000 feet.

“We are ready to go into phase two of recovery as it has been almost a month since the tragic accident took place on the night of November 8,” read a post from the family on a GoFundMe page launched in Bryon’s name: ‘Bring Byron Home’.

“At this time, we have had numerous rescue attempts with positive recovery of parts of Byron’s plane.

“We are now trying to arrange getting a Deep-sea Trekker that can go to the depth that the plane has been currently marked at — over 10,000 feet — to find the answers we need for closure.

“Again, we ask for your assistance in helping the family to locate Byron’s plane.

“Thank you once again for all of your kind donations. We appreciate all that you have done and still pray that we will have a positive outcome. God bless you all for your support.”

Byron was en route from Florida in a six-seater Piper Aztec when his door flew open, according to authorities. The United States-registered aircraft went down two nautical miles from the airfield at Lynden Pindling International Airport.

The page launched on November 17 has raised over $25,000 to date.

Since the crash, Byron’s family has hired jet skis, boats, a private aircraft, and certified deep-sea divers.

In an interview with Eyewitness News yesterday, Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commander Shone Pinder said the search and recovery effort for the aircraft continued, though that effort was not as “intense”.

He said the search expanded as far as Andros and the Berry Islands.

“What we do have is our patrol craft that are around the area conducting searches, traversing the area,” he said at the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s (RBPF) headquarters.

“The crews and the commanding officers of those craft have been informed that anything relative to the crash [that] they suspect, that is to be collected as evidence.

He added, “Anything that is on the surface… in those areas, they’re on the lookout for.”

RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethel said Sunday that he and senior commanders of the organization will meet this week to determine the way forward with the search.

When asked whether the search is likely to be called off this week, Pinder said “that will happen at some point”, but that will be determined by the commodore.

He said when that happens, if additional debris is found the search would be reactivated.

Pinder was also asked whether the RBDF has given assistance to the Ferguson family as it seeks to utilize specialized diving equipment.

He said there was some coordinated efforts on November 15 when civilian divers and the RBDF found debris believed to be from the plane.

“There have been some efforts, but I believe the deep-sea diving in particular, that has been suspended given the depth of water and [our] current capabilities — it just exceeded the capabilities right now.

“But, I cannot speak to what funding was raised or how that is going to be employed.

The RBDF was widely criticized over its handling over the search in the days following the incident.

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

Pinder said he believes that full review will bring about greater efficiency in the organization, noting that there are “always lessons to be learned”.

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