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Police: plane crash survivors ‘unlikely’

It is unlikely that anyone survived a flight that crashed in waters about a mile north of Nirvana Beach on New Providence Thursday night, Assistant Commissioner of Police Leamond Deleveaux said yesterday.

“Well, I think we’re in the recovery stage now, it’s fair to say,” Delevaux said.

“You know, it’s been almost 24 hours, it’s highly unlikely that [at] this time you’ll find anyone if they’re in this plane alive because, obviously, the plane is submerged in water.”

A six-seater Piper Aztec aircraft plunged into the sea two nautical miles from the airfield at Lynden Pindling International Airport.

Police said shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday, Air Traffic Control (ATC) reported that a plane had disappeared from the radar near Nirvana Beach after the pilot had reported that the door to the plane had flown open.

The pilot, Byron Ferguson, 34, and one passenger were on the plane when it crashed, according to family members who were at the staging area for the search at Nirvana Beach yesterday.

Those family members did not wish to speak on the record.

Kendall Dorsett Jr., the operations investigator for the Air Accident Investigation Department (AAID), said after reports were received from ATC, standby emergency protocols were initiated.

“Search and rescue was subsequently launched by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Royal Bahamas Police Force, U.S. Coast Guard and BASRA,” said Dorsett in a statement.

Commander Shone Pinder, the airway commanding officer for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, said there were no clear indications of bodies in the plane on Thursday during the original search.

“There were no visible persons at the time based on what I have been informed of,” Pinder said.

“Also, bear in mind it was late into the evening. It was very dark out here last night, little to no lighting, a lot of things going on, a lot of moving parts, a lot of coordinates attempting to be made but our units got here within 10 to 15 minutes of the call. We responded.”

He added: “Remember the initial response was intended to look more so for survivors and get on scene as soon as possible to render immediate assistance.

“They initially sighted the aircraft once they arrived in the general area and once they identified a portion of the aircraft that was still above the surface, they directed their efforts toward that. However, shortly thereafter, the aircraft would have sunk.”

Pinder said defence force officers were combing the shoreline from “the Compass Point area that’s intended to come to this area (Nirvana Beach) and pass it and go to the west” to see if any debris from the plane could be found.

Both Pinder and Deleveaux confirmed that the plane was not in its original position when divers returned to the scene on Friday morning.

Deleveaux told The Nassau Guardian that authorities believe the plane may have shifted from its original position.

“We still have teams of defence force and police officers in the Nirvana Beach area continuing the search,” he said.

“We’re told that the plane may have relocated from its original position that it was in last night and so we continue to search. We continue to search as long as necessary.

“We’ll go until sunset this evening, until dark fall and then tomorrow again we’ll resume search. We want to bring some sort of relief to the persons who were on that aircraft.

“As I indicated last night, we told you last night that the plane, parts of the plane have been located by the defence and police officers. They had the coordinates.

“My understanding is that they checked the coordinates that they had last night, they checked it this morning to discover that the plane was no longer in that position.”

Deleveaux said the change in tide led to plane moving.

“You know that the tides that come in and out will usually take anything that’s in its path out and so it may have been taken to a different area,” he said.

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