BAHAMAS-PM orders full review of protocols and procedures in search operations


 Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has called for a full review of protocols, procedures and agencies involved in air accident response and investigations as the search continues Monday for the two persons missing after their six-seater plane crashed in the area of Nirvana Beach 11 days ago.

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) said it is continuing the search for the two people, including the pilot Byron Ferguson and debris from his Piper Aztec plane.

In a statement, Prime Minnis said the plane crash and the search and rescue operations which followed have become the subject of intense public discussion.

Pilot Byron Ferguson

“I have spoken with Mr. Ferguson’s mother and have offered my prayers to her and her family.The civil aviation authorities of the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation have already commenced an investigation. I have instructed that all resources are brought to bear to ensure this investigation is handled properly.

“I will also order a full review by competent experts of the protocols, procedures and agencies involved in air accident response and investigations in the Bahamas, including any systemic or structural problems,” Prime MInnis said, adding that the report by these experts will be shared with the public once completed.

He said the government will examine the report and make any necessary changes to air disaster response in our country.

“I will make no comment on the operations until I have received a full report from the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and other relevant authorities. The government will then consider and take any corrective measures that may be indicated by the facts,” Minnis said as he thanked the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association, the U.S. Coast Guard, the RBDF and volunteers for their work after the accident.

“Let us continue to pray for Byron Ferguson’s family, and to support them during this time,” he said.

The aircraft, a PA-27 six seater, with the registration N8383C, left Lantana Airport, West Palm Beach, Florida, with two persons on board on the night of November 8 and shortly afterwards the police said they received reports from Air Traffic Control that a plane disappeared from the radar in the area of the beach and elieved to have crashed in nearby waters.

The RBDF said it had recovered small parts of the aircraft over the weekend as well as some pieces of cargo.

“We will continue in earnest until the information and evidence gathered has come to a point where there is nothing else that can be gathered and or there are suggestions and or directives indicating we ought to do otherwise.

“Given the level of scrutiny this case has and continues to get certainly our efforts are focused toward ensuring our efforts are comprehensive and we seek to aid in the closure of this investigation in an accurate, timely and deliberate fashion,” said Commander Shonedel Pinder, the officer in charge of the RBDF’s air division.

National Security Minister Marvin Dames, facing calls for his resignation as a result of the incident, said the report he has ordered into the incident, will be shared with the public and its findings will lead to changes if necessary.

Thousands of people have already signed an online petition calling for Dames resignation.

Last week, Attorney General Carl Bethel told the Senate that the response to the plane crash showed the RBDF is not sensitized to accident disaster recovery.

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