Family of missing pilot contemplating judicial review request
The brothers of Byron Ferguson are considering pursuing legal action in relation to the action and inaction of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) during and after a plane crash he was involved in last November.
“My brothers and I are very strong in our views on this. My parents are torn by it, but me and my brothers are tired of the nonsense, and I think the only way we can get some kind of sense, I guess make sense out of this is to bring legal action. That is the only way these authorities learn and understand their roles in this society,” said Bjorn Ferguson, one of the brothers.
“They believe they just could do whatever they want to do outside of rules, you know, and I think that’s the only way we could move forward as a country. When these things happen, we go to the courts and we get the courts to speak to the issue.”
Byron Ferguson has been missing since his plane, a six-seater Piper Aztec, crashed in waters two nautical miles from Lynden Pindling International Airport in November.
In the hours after the crash, officials said they spotted debris suspected to be from the aircraft. However, when they returned to the site the next morning, they were unable to find the wreckage.
When asked if any efforts were made to secure the plane after the crash, RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethel said, “No efforts were made to secure the aircraft because our priority right then and there was to look for persons who might have been alive in the water.”
The RBDF was lambasted by the family and by Attorney General Carl Bethel over its handling of the search and rescue operations.
Asked what type of legal action the family wants to pursue, Bjorn Ferguson said he believes a judicial review of the actions and decisions of the defense force would be appropriate. He said he does not believe the RBDF understands the pain it has caused, and that his family has struggled with the lack of closure on the matter.
“Response, lack of, decision making, they believe they can do anything,” he said.
“They are a public body and they come under judicial scrutiny with their decisions, and I think the appropriate course of action in this case would be one of judicial review. We would ask the courts in this particular instance to review the decisions or indecisions of this matter.
“So many things are affected by the decisions or indecisions that occurred on November 8.
“You have children involved, families involved. If he lost his life, then insurance and estate planning, all of those things are affected by that, but because we were in the state that we are in, you’ve got to wait seven years for a declaration of death.
“He has young children in school. It’s just so many things affected by it. They don’t know the harm and the damage and the pain they cause by not addressing these things sensibly from the onset.”
He added, “I just go back and recall the press conference they held, with these stupid reasons they gave, the vessels didn’t have fuel and they didn’t have flood lights. I mean this is the military agency of the country disclosing to the nation this is the reason why, and that it acceptable? It’s just unbelievable how we operate in this place.”
Ferguson said his family has discussed having a memorial service for his brother, but that nothing is concrete, as they wanted to wait on the findings of authorities.
“It’s been discussed, but we just wanted to see what the authorities were going to reveal, any findings by them, and then we take our next steps,” he said.
“We are discussing a memorial but we haven’t really concluded on anything as yet.”
He noted, however, that the investigation into the plane crash has been limited by the fact that the plane hasn’t been found. He also expressed concern over the status of the search, saying that his family has not received a clear answer on the extent of the search efforts.
“We’ve been in communication with the Department of Civil Aviation in relation to the investigation concerning the crash, what brought the plane down, but they are limited in what they can do because the craft has not been recovered,” he said.
He added, “We made numerous attempts by way of letters, phone calls, trying to ascertain the status of the search, and everyone just keeps dodging and not giving definitives, saying things like while their vessels are out they are going to remain vigilant and on their patrols they are looking.
“Obviously, to me, a response like that strongly indicates that they are not diligently searching for that specific plane.”
Ferguson continued, “As taxpayers in this country, I think we expect and deserve more from these agencies, and I’m not unreasonable or uninformed that the defense force may have resource issues, but that’s part of the reason why we enter into these multilateral and bilateral agreements, to call on other countries with better resources to assist in matters of this kind.”
When asked about the matter yesterday, RBDF Commander Shone Pinder said that while the search specifically for the plane is no longer ongoing, the defense force’s routine patrols have been tasked with scanning in search of anything that may be connected with the crash.
He said that anything recovered that is believed to be related to the case is sent to the commanding office.