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Clinging to hope

Had everything gone as planned, Byron Ferguson and his parents would have been flying to South Africa to celebrate his father’s birthday yesterday, but instead his family and authorities were still conducting a widespread search for him after his plane crashed off western New Providence on Thursday night.

While Ferguson’s family remains hopeful that he is still alive, authorities said it is unlikely that anyone survived the crash in waters about a mile north of Nirvana Beach.

“He was scheduled to return to work today in South Africa,” said Ferguson’s brother, Bjorn, who spoke to the media yesterday at Nirvana Beach, where dozens of their relatives and friends gathered.

“Today is my father’s birthday. He was taking my parents with him to South Africa today… and this is what we’re faced with.”

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 reported that the door to the plane had flown open.

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

Ferguson, 34, and one passenger were reportedly on the plane when it crashed, according to authorities.

Byron Ferguson.

However, conflicting reports from his family suggest he was the only one aboard, as the person who was supposed to fly with him never got on the plane.

“We are not giving up on my husband,” said Ferguson’s wife, Anya.

“He is an excellent pilot, and I’m sure he is out there.

“I’m not giving up on my husband and I don’t expect anyone out here to give up on him.

“He is going to be returned home to us alive and that’s my final everything; he is going to be here.”

Ferguson is a father of two, a nine-month-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. He is the son of former media personality Agnes Ferguson.

His family described him as an experienced pilot, who had been flying since he was 14.

He graduated from Florida Air Academy and had his license since 1999, according to his brother.

“We are confident in Byron’s ability and the actions he took, up until the plane landed,” Bjorn said.

“This was obviously a controlled landing… He was losing altitude. He knew he could not make it to LPIA. He told his friend to track him; he was going to ditch this plane there.

“Byron was flying from 14-years-old. He [flew] in the Middle East in the desert. He [flew] in Africa. Byron is a pilot, so I’m confident in his ability, and we’re just praying; we don’t want to lose hope.”

Commander Shone Pinder, the airway commanding officer for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, said on Friday there were no clear indications of bodies in the plane on Thursday during the original search when a portion of the aircraft was still above the water.

However, the plane was no longer at that location when divers returned to the scene on Friday morning.

Officials believe the plane may have shifted from its original position due to a change in tide.

As they gathered on Nirvana Beach yesterday, Ferguson’s family criticized authorities over the search and rescue efforts.

“As you can see, everyone is out here again, hopeful, wishing for the best, but bracing to accept reality,” said Ferguson’s brother,

“Speaking for the family, [we are] expressing our extreme frustration and our dissatisfaction with the search and rescue attempt for my brother.

The Ferguson family at Nirvana Beach yesterday as the search for pilot Byron Ferguson continued.

“The sequence of events as we understand them, as they unfolded, as they happened, we know there was room for intervention and a greater attempt at rescue that wasn’t satisfactorily done.”

Pointing to the alleged lack of communication with family members, the inability to secure the plane on Thursday night or send divers to search it, and the lack of visibility of officials searching the area in the days following the crash, Ferguson’s other brother, Anvon, called the entire operation incompetent.

“That’s just insane that this day, in 2018, in The Bahamas, a plane crashed and you have no divers available until the next morning, at light, when you have clear indication of where the plane is.

“Furthermore, you come back the next morning, you don’t know where the plane is, so from the time you discovered it, you didn’t mark it, you didn’t track it. The only thing you can say is the current may have carried it.”

Bjorn Ferguson added, “What makes it so egregious is the fact that for two or three consecutive days, you had family members standing up on this beach; obviously we don’t have time to waste, we’re here because we know something happened, and none of the authorities, in particular the lead agency, has sought to send a liaison person and get correct information.”

Relatives have been conducting their own private search for Ferguson since Friday, using personal planes, boats and jet skis.

They said their search will continue until they can get to a conclusion.

Sloan Smith

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Sloan covers national news for The Nassau Guardian. Sloan officially joined the news team in September 2016 but interned at The Nassau Guardian while studying journalism at the University of The Bahamas.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications

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