Crash victim wanted to get home early

Crash victim wanted to get home early

The young mother killed in a plane crash on Long Island early Sunday was not scheduled to travel back to Nassau until today, her sister told The Nassau Guardian. 

Aleitheia Newbold, 22, who had a six-month-old daughter, was the only person of the seven onboard who lost her life when the Piper Navajo went down in bushes two miles from Deadman’s Cay Airport shortly after take-off.

The survivors were identified as pilot Brad McPhee, Nia Bethel-Sears, Leannka Rigby, Patsy Higgs, Rhiannon Thompson and Alicia Rolle.

Newbold’s sister, Michanti Simms, said she left New Providence on Thursday to work as a hostess and server at Long Island’s regatta events.

Simms said her family does not know why Newbold decided to return early.

“I was sleeping through the whole ordeal,” said Simms when asked how she found out about her sister’s death.

“I got up and I looked at my phone and someone was like, ‘My condolences.’ 

“I was confused and I was like, ‘What?’ So, they screenshot the article and I just blacked out mentally. I didn’t know what to say, how to feel, or what to do. I automatically went to my sister’s chat.

“I was looking at when her last seen [message] was. At this point, I knew I couldn’t message her, so I just was looking at it. Then, I went to her [WhatsApp] story. She had posted her baby girl before she boarded the plane.”

Simms said she feels “super guilty” about her sister’s death.

The plane crashed on Long Island on Sunday.

“I was like, ‘Why didn’t I call you? Why didn’t I message you this morning?’ I was feeling like I could’ve avoided the situation from happening. It was just total shock,” she said.

Simms added, “I’m still processing because it does not feel real. It’s something you can’t imagine. You can’t fathom or understand it. You can’t even explain the way you feel. I can’t find words.”

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Authority (AAIA) said it was notified about the crash shortly after 9 a.m. and an emergency response was immediately initiated with efforts by the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Airport Authority and United States (US) Coast Guard.

Senator Tyrel Young was among the first people to arrive at the crash site.

Young said he arrived at the site about 15 minutes after the crash. By this time, according to Young, Newbold had already died.

“The first officers who were on scene had already covered her,” he recalled.

“She was already out of the plane and covered. Everything just happened quickly. We just were trying to get the injured survivors to the cleared area in the bush where we could sit them down and get them oriented. They were disoriented.

“In the bush, we also had the doctor who was first on the scene. He started doing the assessment once we got them to a clearing.”

Young described the scene as surreal.

He said first responders had to clear about a mile and a half of bushes, so the survivors had a path to walk back to the road where other doctors and nurses were waiting to assess them.

“The victims, obviously, were very shaken,” Young said.

“All of them were in pain, the survivors. We tried to comfort them as best as possible. We had a few of the folks who came in with us start to slash the bushes to make a track for them to walk back because where they were in so much pain they were unable to bend or maneuver in ways that it would have taken normally to get back out of the bushes.”

The survivors were given preliminary medical assessments and care on Long Island. Injuries included suspected fractures, concussions and various lacerations, The Nassau Guardian understands.

The survivors were transported to New Providence in US Coast Guard helicopters on Sunday afternoon. Nervous relatives and friends flooded the airport as they waited for the helicopters to arrive at 2 p.m.

Among them was motivational speaker and talk show host Spence Finlayson, Rigby’s father.

Finlayson said his daughter called him not long after the aircraft crashed to let him know she was OK.

He said she asked him to call the authorities for assistance.

“I was on my way to church and I said, ‘Oh my God. What is this?’,” he said.

“The only thing that kept me going was that she was with all of her faculties and everything else.

“She called me back a couple of times during the church service to say what was going on. She said the doctors had come and they were checking them and everything else.”

Minister of Public Works and Utilities Alfred Sears and his wife, attorney Marion Bethel, were also present with their family as they awaited the arrival of their daughter, Nia.

They did not speak to reporters at the airport but Sears released a statement on the crash yesterday.

He said he and his wife received a telephone call from their daughter’s friend, Alicia Rolle, who informed them of the plane crash at 9:20 am.

“Surely, you can imagine that the frenzy and trauma have truly left us all shaken,” Sears said.

“However, we are immensely grateful to God for sparing the lives of our loved ones, as we are taught as believers in God, that ‘in all things give thanks’.”

Sears said the rescue of the survivors was difficult and courageous.

He thanked former Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, who had called him to request assistance with a constituency concern in Killarney, for his quick telephone call to Rolle to render telemedical assistance to survivors.

AAIA Chief Investigator Captain Delvin Major yesterday appealed to the individuals who were onboard the aircraft to reach out to the authority because “we’d like to know what took place”.

“First of all, the purpose of our investigation is not to blame anybody but to find out what happened to prevent it from happening again in the future,” he said.

The Nassau Guardian understands that some of the crash survivors were still in hospital yesterday.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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