NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commodore Tellis Bethel said last night that he and senior commanders of the organization will meet this week to determine the way forward with the search and recovery effort for a small plane that plunged in waters off western New Providence on Nov. 8.
“We’ll meet this week to determine that; where we go from here,” Bethel told Eyewitness News.
That meeting will take place on Wednesday or Thursday, Bethel advised.
When asked whether the search is likely to be called off this week, Bethel said, “I’d rather wait until I speak with the rest of our team.”
Byron Ferguson, 34, 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.
Ferguson was expected to join his family to travel to South Africa in celebration of his father’s birthday.
Asked about search efforts over the weekend, Bethel indicated that the RBDF’s patrol crafts continue to search for anything that will help to bring closure to the matter.
However, he said there has been no new developments to date.
Last Monday, RBDF Commander Shone Pinder said 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.
The RBDF was roundly criticized over its handling over the search in the days following the incident.
Attorney General Carl Bethel also slammed the RBDF 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.
Volunteers and civilian divers located wreckage believed to be from the plane in waters near the crash site on November 15 — a week later.
The RBDF later revealed it had also found debris, but the discovery was not reported at the time.
The commodore 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.