Abaco bishop guides distressed plane to soft swamp landing

Shortly after crashing his small plane into the swamp at Treasure Cay, Abaco, Bishop Cedric Bullard stood on a wing waiting to be rescued and giving God thanks that he and his four passengers had survived.

Bullard later told The Nassau Guardian that minutes after takeoff, the plane lost power and was quickly losing altitude. 

“I wasn’t climbing anymore and I realized I was losing pressure, engine power, and that’s when I tried to make it to the road,” said Bullard, of New Life Ministries, Cooper’s Town.

“It wasn’t too far from the highway, so I turned toward the mainland. After I realized I was at 200 feet and there were pine trees ahead, I put it in the swamp.”

Bullard, a former president of Abaco’s Christian Council, said there was a prayer before takeoff. 

“I said to my pastor here, ‘pray; pray that God gives us a safe flight’ and we had a prayer in the plane this morning.  My minister prayed, ‘God give us a safe flight. Guide the hands of the pilot,’ and everything happened the way he prayed. I thank God for quick thinking.”

The plane — a Piper PA32 Cherokee Six — left Treasure Cay Airport at 7:30 a.m. en route to Nassau.

The passengers were Timothy Bullard, the bishop’s son; his brother-in-law, Latroy Russell, also a pastor; Russell’s daughter, Simone; and Rosemika Charles, a medical student in Barbados.

Bullard said they were at 800 feet when the plane lost altitude.

When he realized something was wrong, Bullard said, he encouraged more prayers.

“Being a pastor, I said to one of my pastors onboard, I said, ‘We are losing altitude’ and I said, ‘pray’,” he recounted, adding that everyone onboard was “calm and collected”.

“Everybody was on the throne (praying), calling out to the Lord to guide us, knowing that we were going down.”

He said he had about five minutes to steer the plane to safety.

Bullard said the landing in the swamp was “very smooth” and he was happy that he avoided the ocean.

“We had bone fish come and hail us; we had crabs come and hail us. It’s just a beautiful area,” he said in a video that went viral yesterday. The cell phone video was shot as they waited to be rescued.

“[T]his could have been in the ocean. This could have been in the pine yard, but God put us in the swamp where the landing was smooth. No one was injured. We right here having fun, talking and laughing and giving God thanks.”

Upon crash landing, his first call was to Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA), but Nicholas Lowe, a resident, accompanied by two defense force officers, ended up bringing his small boat to rescue them out of the swamp around 11 a.m.

Bullard, who got his pilot’s license in 1995, said he bought the plane eight months ago. He said the incident yesterday will not deter him from flying.

“Things could have gone much differently,” he said. “I thank God for that.”

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Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of The Nassau Guardian.

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