By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
Prime Minister Perry Christie and Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna Martin yesterday visited the crash site at the Grand Bahama Shipyard, where the Lear 36 jet went down on Sunday killing Dr Myles Munroe, the president and founder of Bahamas Faith Ministries International, and eight others on board.
Mr Christie told reporters that the government needs to ensure the investigation into the accident moves quickly and to make policy changes if needed.
Ms Hanna Martin said representatives from the US National Transportation Safety Board Transportation Board (NTSB) and from Bombardier, the manufacturers of the aircraft, are due to arrive in Freeport today for the start of a full-scale investigation into the crash.
The search for the cockpit voice recorder, she said, is crucial in determining what led to the “terrible incident.”
A team from the Flight Standards Inspectorate began its preliminary work at the crash site yesterday, gathering information, documenting the scene, and taking photographs.
Because the jet was a US-registered aircraft, Ms Hanna Martin said it was necessary for the NTSB to be involved in the investigation.
“The investigations will be a coordinated effort between that Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority, the US NTSB, and the manufacturers, and they will begin to move forward in locating the cockpit voice recorder to see what information that it gives.
“So right now it is really an investigation and we want to discourage people from speculating because it’s lots of that (happening), and it is not helpful. The inspectors are on the ground and it will be a combined cross-sectoral effort that will review the circumstances and help us understand exactly what it was that happened and led to this terrible incident.
“A key and critical piece of information will be the cockpit voice recorder, and whether there was a data voice recorder, but we are not sure of that yet, but that will greatly assist in understanding what happened here,” she added.
On Sunday, Grand Bahama experienced severe weather conditions of heavy rain, lightning, and thunderstorms.
Officials said the plane left the Lynden Pindling International Airport around 4pm. Some time around 5.10pm, the plane - on approach to land at the Grand Bahama International Airport - struck a crane and reportedly exploded in mid-air, before crashing in a junk pile at the Grand Bahama Shipyard.
Director of Civil Aviation Ivan Cleare said that the pilots were given the “all clear” by Air Traffic Control to fly to Freeport.
“The weather was good enough for them to fly yesterday,” Mr Cleare said. “Of course, sometimes the weather deteriorates and the pilots would have to make a decision.
“But they were given an update on the weather as they would have come in, and it would have been up to the pilots to accept an approach or decline the approach,” he explained.
Mr Christie spoke to reporters around 1pm after visiting the crash site. He said that Dr Munroe’s death has had a “profound impact” on the country.
“We must ensure that wherever the answers take us, that if it has policy implications we can effect whatever changes we have to using this as an example of it,” he said of the investigation.
“I wanted to visit the crash site to get a sense of what happened,” he added. “When any horrific accident takes place and there is a loss of life, it is a major occasion in a country as small as the Bahamas. When it happens for someone who is an iconic leader, then it becomes a more profoundly impactful experience for the country.”
“I ask myself why would God take the life of someone who was one of his angels, one his disciples, one of his apostles,” he said, referring to Dr Munroe.
Mr Christie told the leaders of Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFM) that life must go on and that they must put in practice the teachings of Dr Munroe.
“We are going to have to find the right way to celebrate the life of Dr Myles Munroe. He has made an extraordinary and defining contribution to the Bahamas, and worldwide.”
Dr Munroe and his wife Ruth, both 60, were on their way to Freeport for the Global Leadership Summit. Also travelling with them were BFMI’s senior vice president Dr Richard Pinder, 59, and youth pastors Lavard Parks, and his wife, Rudel Parks, and their young son, Johannan.
Piloting was Capt Stanley Thurston, 62, with co-pilot Franhkan Cooper, 34. Another passenger, believed to be a visitor, who has not been identified was also on the plane.
Despite the tragedy, the conference went onto as scheduled yesterday morning at the Grand Lucayan Resort. It was a sombre moment for those attending and conference officials as they sang songs of praise and reflected on the life of Dr Munroe.
Banners with photographs of the world renowned spiritual leader hang prominently in the lobby of the convention centre.
Ambassador Andrew Young, an American politician, and a close friend of Dr Munroe, spoke to the gathering. He said that he was blessed to have known Dr Munroe and spend time with him. He told the BFM family that the presence of Dr Munroe will always be with them in spirit.
Leo Douglas, a member of BFM in Freeport, who communicated with Dr Munroe minutes before the crash, was devastated by the news.
“I got a text from him (Dr Munroe) saying that they were about to land, and I said I would meet him at the hotel,” he recalled.
A special prayer service was held at the BFM headquarters in New Providence last night.