One year later, promised probe into missing pilot yet to begin

One year later, promised probe into missing pilot yet to begin
Missing pilot Byron Ferguson

Dames: “Let’s see what the investigation says”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of National Security Marvin Dames suggested the government was awaiting the official report on the crash involving missing pilot Byron Ferguson before its probe of the incident and agencies involved would begin.

Dames was unable to provide a timeline when questioned by Eyewitness News Online last week.

In the aftermath of the incident last November, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis promised a full review amid heavy public criticisms of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s (RBDF) handling of the initial search and rescue effort.

When asked if the probe had begun, Dames, who has minister responsibility for the RBDF, pointed out that the Air Accident and Investigation Department’s (AAID) investigation was ongoing.

National Security Minister, Marvin Dames.

“You have the investigation,” he told Eyewitness News Online.

“These investigations take time. Let’s see when the report comes out.”

He was asked in the probe hinged on the release of the AAID’s report, which is expected to include recommendations over the search and rescue efforts during and after the incident.

Dames said: “I don’t know if it is hinged on the report. You probably need to call the prime minister to see what he has to say.”

Pressed on the probe, Dames said: “I don’t know the extent of his comments, so you probably need to follow up.

It was pointed out that the prime minister had promised a full review of the “protocols, procedures and agencies involved” in the incident last year.

The minister responded: “I remember. I recall, absolutely, but let’s see what the investigation says.”

Byron Ferguson, 34, departed West Palm Beach, Florida, on November 8, 2018.

He was en route to Lynden Pindling International Airport and notified Air Traffic Control that he experienced an engine malfunction.

However, he did not arrive at his destination as the Piper Aztec aircraft plunged into waters 2.3 nautical miles from the runway.

Ferguson was never found.

In the hours after the incident, authorities advised that they spotted what they believed to be was a part of the aircraft; however, it was not secured. When authorities returned to the same area the plane wreckage could not be located.

RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethel told the media: “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”.

In an interim AAID report, obtained by Eyewitness News Online, investigators noted the pilot, major parts and components of the aircraft and an undetermined amount of cargo were never recovered as the aircraft sank and was lost to the ocean.

When contacted, AAID Chief Investigator Delvin Major confirmed investigators were still reviewing engine maintenance records for the aircraft in an effort to finalize the report, which is expected to be released early next year.