Dames: Govt working on improving air accident investigation

National Security Minister Marvin Dames yesterday said the government is working on improving its ability to investigate aircraft accidents following the release of the final report from the Air Accident Investigation Department revealing shortfalls from the relevant authorities in responding to pilot Byron Ferguson’s plane crash last year. 

The report called for the government to establish an organization dedicated solely to search and rescue efforts.

Pressed on this point, Dames said,”That’s why you have inquiries to look at. One can always go back and see what can be done differently, but I will say this: officers responded when they were informed. 

“They executed, and yeah we can look back and say, ‘Yeah, well, that could’ve been done differently.’ That’s what it’s all about. How do we improve?”

Earlier this month, the Aircraft Accident Investigation Authority Bill, 2019 was passed in the House of Assembly to improve cooperation from government agencies in accident investigations.

The bill will establish an Aircraft Accident Investigation Authority of The Bahamas, which will be independent from the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority and be responsible for conducting investigations into civil aviation accidents and incidents.

Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar, at the time, said the bill is expected to get rid of conflicts of interest and bring The Bahamas’ accident investigation procedure in line with international standards. 

Amendment 15 stipulated that a country’s accident investigation authority be independent from state aviation authorities.

Amendment 16 stipulated that the accident investigation authority should have unrestricted and timely access to evidential material, as well as the implementation of monitoring procedures to track actions in response to safety recommendations.

Last year, Attorney General Carl Bethel suggested that the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) mishandled the search for Ferguson.

Bethel insisted that the government needs to arrange for members of the RBDF to undergo sensitization training.

Byron Ferguson’s family has also expressed their dissatisfaction in search and rescue efforts on numerous occasions. 

“This is all about getting better, but the rescue team would have been in place in that area for weeks,” Dames said. 

“Are there some things they could’ve done better? Well, you know, we’ll see.”

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