0

‘Rescuers Are Failing Lost Pilot’

Dr Ashton Ferguson, left, and Bjorn Ferguson at Sunday’s press conference.

Dr Ashton Ferguson, left, and Bjorn Ferguson at Sunday’s press conference.

photo

Byron Ferguson

By Morgan Adderley

Tribune Staff Reporter

madderley@tribunemedia.net

RELATIVES of Byron Ferguson, the pilot of the small plane that crashed in waters off Nirvana Beach on Thursday night, are frustrated and dissatisfied with the way officials have conducted search and rescue efforts for the beloved father, husband, son, and brother.

As officials continued their search, dozens of Mr Ferguson’s loved ones gathered on Nirvana Beach yesterday morning as his brothers and wife held a press conference to painfully recount all the ways in which they think the systems in place failed Mr Ferguson and his family.

photo

The scene in the Nirvana Beach area on Sunday. Photos: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff

According to his family, these failures included poor communication from officials, no divers being dispatched the first night, and the fact that Mr Ferguson was unable to land on three Family Island airport runways due to a lack of lighting. His family said the seasoned pilot experienced difficulties with the plane’s door during flight and contacted Air Traffic Control. Some time later, he experienced engine problems before landing in the sea.

“(I am) just really speaking for the family, expressing our extreme frustration and our dissatisfaction with the search and rescue attempt for my brother,” Dr Ashton Ferguson, Mr Ferguson’s younger brother, told reporters yesterday.

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

The family met with RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethel yesterday morning and was told the search perimeter had been expanded from the initial boundary.

Dr Ferguson said according to his brother’s flight plan, Mr Ferguson left the West Palm Beach airport in Florida at approximately 7.26pm on Thursday. Contradicting previous police reports, the family said that Mr Ferguson was the sole occupant of the plane although two people were originally supposed to be on board.

photo

Family members comfort each other at the scene.

“The information that we obtained, my brother, he encountered difficulties about 40 miles off of the coast with his door,” Dr Ferguson said. “He radioed as such to the Air Traffic Control. I think about 15 miles, again, he contacted again with engine problems.

“He was an experienced pilot, he flew internationally,” Dr Ferguson added. “He had clarity of mind and what he was doing.”

Dr Ferguson said his brother texted a friend who was supposed to pick him up from the airport. He asked the friend, a fellow pilot, to track the flight.

“We understand that the last contact the Air Traffic Control had with him was two miles out, when they lost him,” he said. “We have information that when my brother landed the plane in the water, the plane was…for the most part intact. The tail of the plane was still visible. “Someone…responded, tried to actually collect a rope to put around it or something, but the plane sunk very quickly. I understand this was in…less than 50 feet of water.”

Dr Ferguson criticised the fact that no command station was formed to collect tips or eyewitness accounts.

photo

Family members praying at Nirvana Beach.

He also said no divers were on the initial RBDF vessel that responded to the incident. While he could not confirm whether any divers were on the five additional boats that responded, he claimed that “ultimately no one went into the water that night (Thursday).”

“The search was called off I think before even midnight. Questions I have about (this) is: who has that authority to call off a search and what is the criteria that they use?” Dr Ferguson asked through tears.

Mr Ferguson’s younger brother Anvon also decried the lack of divers in the first response, and the fact that the plane had submerged by morning.

“That’s just incompetence to me,” Anvon Ferguson said. “I don’t know anywhere else in the world where something like that would happen. That’s just insane that this day, 2018 in the Bahamas, a plane crash, you have no divers available until the morning, at light? You have a clear indication of where the plane is.”

RBDF Airwing commanding officer, Commander Shone Pinder explained to Our News on Friday that divers were not initially sent out due to the lack of lighting.

“Bear in mind it was late into the evening, it was very dark out here last night,” Commander Pinder said on Friday. “Little to no lighting, a lot of things going on, a lot of moving parts, a lot of coordination attempting to be made. But our units got here within 10-15 minutes of the call.”

Both brothers said when divers came to the location the next morning, officials were unable to locate the plane. They questioned why the aircraft was not marked or tracked in some way, and expressed concerns that the current could have carried it into the deep water of the Tongue of the Ocean.

Furthering the systematic failures that contributed to their brother’s accident, eldest brother Bjorn Ferguson, an attorney, also highlighted the fact that despite his flight’s difficulties, Mr Ferguson had no choice but to try to make it to Nassau’s airport, as he could not land at Family Island airports.

“On a national level, Byron passed three airports,” Bjorn Ferguson said. “Three. Three airports. Three airports he had to pass when he first encountered this emergency. And he could not take the plane down because no lights on the friggen runway (sic).

“He had to pass three runways: Chub Cay, Great Harbour Cay, and San Andros, to make it here on one engine, trying to get this plane here on one engine to LPIA. It is retarded. Retarded. And if you’re going to give the excuse of ‘(oh) we don’t light it up because of drug planes,’ that is retarded.”

The family said Mr Ferguson is a graduate of the Florida Air Academy who has been flying since he was 14 years old. He obtained his pilot’s licence in 1999 and is currently working out of North Africa for a South-African headquartered company.

Comments

Sickened 9 months, 1 week ago

This is really upsetting! 50 ft of water and no-one got in the water? No-one even tied a float to the tail so that it could easily be found? I could have been out there with my boat's flood lights and two floating waterproof cat lights (about $30 each) from costco. Next time, call the gated communities and let them ask homeowners for assistance. You could probably get +10 boats out there and +40 sets of eyes, scanning the area.

2

hrysippus 9 months, 1 week ago

I must assume that you have never been diving at night in 50ft depth of water. Your cheap flashlights would almost certainly leak at 3 atmospheres pressure. I have dove in this area several times and there can be a 5 knot current running. It would be very easy to get into trouble with a rushed unplanned dive. I am sorry for the loss of life but the family is not acting right by trying to blame the RBDF, they acted correctly and nothing that they could have done differently would have changed the situation. And I am not a person who is used to defending the actions of this military organization which has such a shameful history.

1

ThisIsOurs 9 months, 1 week ago

You know @sickened might have an idea. On this island the government never has enough resources to do anything. Perhaps you could work on a trained civilian force to do this exact thing. You have training exercises for these eventualities. No haphazard rescue attempts,no running into situations that are too dangerous. The call goes out and the civilian force mounts up. And the model could be used in any number of areas not just at sea, but If the assessment is made that it's too dangerous, no one goes out. There are minimal qualifications to get in and entry means you get certain incentives like VAT exemption up to a certain number. There are any number of policies you could include, ratings for which vessels are allowed in which situations etc

0

MassExodus 9 months, 1 week ago

100% accurate. In bad weather doing a rushed unplanned dive, is asking for problems. The loss of life is unfortunate, but they are not being reasonable. RBDF divers could have easily gotten lost, disoriented, or drifted away from the boat, with the current. Diving at 50' in the dark requires decent conditions, and a lot of planning, from dive team, to the team on the deck.

0

sam65 9 months, 1 week ago

We all know that the emergency response team divers where at home fast asleep! The Royal Bahamas Defense Force passed the buck to The Royal Bahamas Police Force who may have a few good divers that wanted to come out and be the hero for the day and make a good name for themselves while impressing the powers that be. The family of this career pilot should sue all liable parties for wrongful death!!!!!! Hit them where’s it hurts in their collective pockets!!! It won’t bring back their loved one but it may ensure proper protocol will be put in place and followed should this scenario arise again!!!

2

DDK 9 months, 1 week ago

Prayers and condolences to the family of this airman.

Sounds like more sickening Bahamas Government departmental inefficiency and inadequacy all around. I must say, the earlier reporting of this incident by this Paper was sketchy at best. Night flight, particularly single pilot, should be discouraged or banned for all but commercial aircraft in this country.

0

licks2 9 months, 1 week ago

First of all. . .condolance tot he family!! When are yall going to use yinna damn heads and stop talking dung all the time? This pilot's family een making no sense. . .all bitched up in their frustrations. . .which I can understand. . .but I cannot follow them in their foolish rambling. For example, go diving in that deep water in the dark? No international rescuer programs will do that nonsense unless they see someone in distress after a crash. . .and according to eye witnesses who were there on the sight shortly after the crash they saw the tail of the plane but found no body!! The plane was sinking fast. . .too fast for the persons on the scene to secure the location. . .but they rowing the DF for getting there later. . .from farther away. . .and to secure a plane that was sinking to fast for those on the scene to record the exact location? Now for me I would like to know FIRST before I go and talk crap. . .was the plane floating on the water when the DF arrived?

Now for them airports they mention. . .people on them Islands typically light-up those facilities in emergency situations. . .been doing it for decades. . .they could not do it that night? And if his buddy was tracking his situation. . .why did he not use the airport to track him the same way?

Now for his air craft. . .the door and one engine gone bad at the same time? Further, twine engine craft can not only land with one engine. . .they can take off the same way! He told LPIA that his door and one engine gone and they would not let him light one of them airports to land. . .and they do so all the time even if a persons is sick bad. . .emergency flights land those places all the time!!

Yinna does jump to conclusion too quick with anything and don't reason out the information. . .

0

EasternGate 9 months, 1 week ago

Thank you very much. Bahamians always blaming others for mistakes and mishaps of friends and family!

0

ohdrap4 9 months, 1 week ago

so how many divers are there in the police and defense force? I bet not many.

0

Cobalt 9 months, 1 week ago

Yup. Bahamians are notorious for talking rubbish.... especially in the wake of a tragedy. The Bahamas government can’t even control a dump fire much less conduct a deep-sea rescue expidition. When a plane crash occurs at sea, our equivalent to the NTSB is supposed to conduct a search and rescue operation followed by an investigation. These operations should include sub-amphibious water crafts and ships equipped with sonar detective devices. But as we all know, our leaders would never invest in such technologies nor invest in training programs related to such. Afterall they’re just monkeys in suits. Give them a banana today and they’ll beg you for another one tomorrow.

0

MassExodus 9 months, 1 week ago

Night dives are extremely dangerous and require a lot of planning. In bad weather doing a rushed unplanned dive, is asking for problems. The loss of life is unfortunate, but they (the family) are not being reasonable. RBDF divers could have easily gotten lost, disoriented, or drifted away from the boat, with the current resulting in another loss of life. Diving at 50' in the dark requires decent conditions, and a lot of planning, from dive team, to the team on the deck.

0

ThisIsOurs 9 months, 1 week ago

How about not doing a rushed dive, but incorporating this as part of our national security plan. We're surrounded by water...what about training a civilian force for the eventuality? And of course if conditions are too dangerous no one goes. Even if the RBDF had perfect conditions, they can't be everywhere.

0

MassExodus 9 months, 1 week ago

They already have highly trained dive teams. The RBPF have dive times that actually check the cruiships for bombs etc. The RBDF have adequate dive teams too that are trained. I would say that these night rescue dives in 50-80' are not dives that they train for, as in they don't do an exercise replicating a similar incident like this.

In absolutely perfect conditions with the right boat captain, and dive team, as well as a backup dive team, I would say to do this particular dive, but without all that in place I don't agree, with just sending divers out at night, because A LOT can go wrong.

0

whybahamas 9 months, 1 week ago

Condolences to the family of the pilot. However, I fail to see what they're blaming divers for? The airplane landed in the water with a problem (open) door and sank immediately. There was no chance of a rescue.

0

BahamaRed 9 months, 1 week ago

But there may have been a chance of a body recovery.

0

Cobalt 9 months, 1 week ago

Condolences to the family. What a horrible loss. I understand their grief and I understand their comments are related to that thereof. The family is really hurting right now. So we all understand the nature of their frustration.

0

BahamaRed 9 months, 1 week ago

Clearly everyone here is speaking out of ignorance on how rescue dive operations really go. First of a special team would be comprised of divers and topside personnel trained to dive at night in unfavorable conditions.

Semper Paratus is the United States Coast Guard motto...meaning they are always ready. Divers are jumping out of helicopters to rescue persons in unfavorable conditions basically everyday.

Why can't our maritime military do the same. It's a fact that bad things happen in unfavorable conditions. The sea won't be calm and the sun won't always be shining when emergencies happen.

Our emergency management teams really need to get out of the mentality that everything happens in favorable conditions.

It was night time, but other than that the water was not unduly rough and the night sky was clear. Regardless of if he had a flight plan the response was piss poor at best.

Had they responded with properly trained divers and equipment to handle a night rescue scenario maybe he might have been rescued that night, at minimum a body recovered.

Stop making excuses for the lack of resources available to the RBDF. Fact is they need better trained personnel and specialized equipment. This isn't the first time they've dropped the ball on a sea rescue. Smh...

0

Cobalt 9 months, 1 week ago

I don’t think the average Bahamian truly understands how monkeyfied our country really is. The Bahamas is an archipelago of islands yet the Bahamas government doesn’t own one Blackhawk helicopter specifically designed for search and rescue operations. Like I said earlier... they can’t even put a dump fire out. So I have come to expect nothing less from these unqualified baboons.

0

BahamaRed 9 months, 1 week ago

They don't... I have long realized that Bahamians are used to the stupidity of this country that nothing fazes them.

We are a set of people who take whatever crap is handed to us wapped gold foil, and say we should be grateful.

0

ThisIsOurs 9 months, 1 week ago

Nothing in our country is "monkey" fied

0

Cobalt 9 months, 1 week ago

You obviously don’t travel. Here is what I challenge you to do..... If the opportunity provides it, go and live in different parts of the world for a while and then compare it to life in the Bahamas. Or if you can’t travel, talk with people who regularly do. I guarantee you’ll find that the Bahamas is a dump. It’s not the only dump... but it is nonetheless still a dump ran by monkeys.

People like you are blinded by a sense of pride, patriotism and nationalism. So you don’t wish to concede nor call the country what it is. Ironically, this is one of the reasons that the Bahamas won’t get any better. In order to fix a problem you have to come face to face with the problem. And often times, it’s an ugly problem. And it becomes painstaking to fix. As a surgeon I see this microcosm all the time. Diagnostic tests including CT scans and MRIs may suggest a small problem. But after I make my incision and evaluate the contents of the human cavity, I come face to face with the truth as to why my clients are truly ill. And like I said, truth is always more ugly that what people are wanting to admit. And in order for me to fix whatever problem that I encounter, it takes a painful commitment from my patients. This illustration that I gave you is a perfect example of the Bahamas and the Bahamian people.

0

proudloudandfnm 9 months, 1 week ago

I pray Byron is ok. He has always been a genuine good person. A true gentleman...

0

tamco 9 months, 1 week ago

Good morning first I would like to say to the family May God be with you through this chapter in your life . And I am praying for that miracle along with you. We can can throw plane all day or try to find someone to blame. But timing and distance plays and important role . And if this was God's plan no amount of planning could of saved him . It's sad and it's unfortunate . And it's a hard pill to swallow .

0

Sign in to comment