In the waning hours of 8th November at about 9 p.m., the Royal Bahamas Defence Force was notified by the Civil Aviation Department that a plane had gone down some 1.5 miles off the coast of New Providence on approach to the Lynden Pindling Airport. There was uncertainty just where but a mustering party led by the RBDF gathered at Love Beach in New Providence and boats set out to sea. According to the RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethel at a press conference on 16 November, they spotted the tail of the plane but were searching for life in the sea and chose not to secure the part of the plane. When they returned they could not find what they had earlier spotted.
According to Commander Pinder of the RBDF who was the onsite commander, the RBDF withdrew from the site just after 2 a.m. on the 9th November because they had run out of fuel and they needed to replenish their supplies. In the result nothing was found, no body, no man alive and the search now continues.
That is the simple story but those who read their papers on Friday 16th November and those who have been following the story online would know that the country and the family of Byron Ferguson, the pilot believed to be on board, are deeply disturbed and dissatisfied about the Government’s response to this plane crash.
One of the reporters at the press conference which we share above put the matter four square to the Commodore: is this negligence; did the RBDF drop the ball?
The Attorney General Carl Bethel when pressed by Senator Fred Mitchell, the Chairman of the PLP, speaking in the Senate on Thursday 15 November, launched into a full-scale attack on the Defence Force for their performance in the plane crash. It was remarkable.
What was even more remarkable was the ham-fisted way this matter has been handled by the Government. There were too many voices. The public couldn’t seem to hear from the Investigating Department who should have been in the lead with all the public communications on the matter from the start. Instead, there was silence then the stumbles and bumbles of Cabinet Ministers as they were approaching or leaving Cabinet on Tuesday 13th November. Marvin Dames, who is the National Security Minister, and the political head of the RBDF made the worst mistake.
Mr. Dames instead of being quiet in the face of the withering criticism of the family about the performance of the RBDF struck back by saying that the operations by RBDF were in fact good and that in any event the pilot had not filed a flight plan. Where did he get that from?
The family was incensed. We show the response of the wife of the missing pilot in this column today. Mr. Dames was wrong and as fate would have it when the volunteers found the debris in the water, which the RBDF had not and could not find, amongst the things they found was the flight plan. It was a silly and uninformed thing to say.
There is now a petitioned by the family to have Mr. Dames dismissed.
We encourage you to sign it.
As we leave this, we want to say that there is a need in these matters for there to be the voice that speaks to the issue, not political voices but a technical person who can brief the family properly on what is happening.
We agree with the RBDF that there is a need to review these procedures going forward because it appears that someone really dropped the ball here.
Number of hits for the week ending Saturday 17th November 2018 up midnight: 187,418
Number of hits for the month of November up to Saturday 17th November 2018 up to midnight: 465,946
Number of hits for the year 2018 up to Saturday 17th November 2018 up to midnight: 11,572,995