Investigators communicating with Haitian, Jamaican aviation authorities
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As United States (U.S.) authorities with the assistance of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force continued to search across Great Inagua for an aircraft following a mayday call from a pilot, investigators were yesterday speaking to aviation authorities in Jamaica and Haiti to determine whether any aircraft were missing.
Police reported around 11:40 a.m. Wednesday that it was advised that the U.S. Coast Guard received a distress call from a pilot indicating that he had lost an engine and was losing altitude.
Speaking with Eyewitness News Online, Air Accident and Investigation Department Chief Investigator Delvin Major said details were still limited as it remains unclear whether the pilot crashed.
“We have been checking social media to see if anyone reported any family member missing,” he said.
“So far, nothing, but we are still trying to track down any information from the Coast Guard.
He continued, “Right now we don’t know which aircraft it is; how many people; where it was going; where it was coming from or any of that.
“We spoke with Air Traffic Control this morning also, and they don’t have any flight plans missing.
“So, we are trying to contact the islands like Jamaica, Haiti, and in those regions to see if anyone may have left from that region because from The Bahamas there is no aircraft missing, heading in the region where the search is going on.
“We’re assuming it may be something coming from the south are, heading in this area.”
However, Major said investigators cannot rule out that the aircraft was inbound to The Bahamas from a foreign country, acknowledging that some aircraft can depart without logging a flight plan in advance.
“We can’t rule anything out at this time,” he said.
“We are still exploring.”
“Sometimes on the islands, you can take off and leave and once you get to altitude you would contact Miami centre or Nassau centre to give them a flight plan airborne. That could very well be the case.
A U.S. Coast Guard aircraft and helicopter was assisting yesterday’s search efforts.
A Defence Force vessel was also expected to assist with the search.
When asked about those efforts yesterday afternoon, Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Tellis Bethel said, “We are awaiting any new… information on that, so I will be able to update later with respect to what’s any new developments that has taken in that regard.”
Asked to respond to concerns about the Defence Force’s ability to mount a successful search on the heels of criticisms surrounding the search and rescue effort for missing pilot Byron Ferguson last November, Bethel defended the record of the organization.
“Several years ago, you had an aircraft that just crashed off the coast here of Clifton; five persons on board, and that was late in the night; inclement weather, Defence Force responded; rescued those persons, including a two-year-old baby; dropped them to base; gave them first medical response – an awesome job,” he said.
“That’s how we do business.”
Ferguson crashed in waters off Nirvana Beach on November 8.
The Defence Force spotted a piece of the aircraft when they first responded to the area of the crash, but it was not secured.
When divers returned the early the next morning, the piece of the aircraft could not be found.
Bethel said responders were focused on searching for the pilot at the time.
He was never found. Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has ordered a full review of the search and rescue effort.