By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM and Aviation Minister Dionisio D'Aguilar has responded to a video purportedly showing the wreckage of the Piper Aztec plane that crashed off the coast of Andros last month.
Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet yesterday, Mr D'Aguilar emphasised the importance of allowing the wreckage to be properly investigated before it is confirmed to be the plane that crashed on January 17, killing six on board.
It has since been revealed that the pilot lacked the required licences to charter commercial flights.
Mr D'Aguilar added that the footage could depict the wreckage of a similar plane that went missing "two to three years ago."
The video was posted by a user on Facebook around 10pm last Thursday and has been widely shared on the platform, with over 32,000 views up to press time.
It appears to show the outline of some kind of craft in the water, as onlookers observe.
Mr D'Aguilar said: "The airport [Accident] Investigation Department is in receipt of that video. They are trying to obtain from the fishermen the exact coordinates of that finding.
"It's important that we get the right plane as it has been brought to my attention there was a similar plane that went missing about two to three years ago.
"So we just want to make sure that we have the right plane that relates to the crash that happened in January. So we haven't confirmed that yet. They're in the process of trying to first locate these…wreckage and to determine whether we have the right plane."
Mr D'Aguilar continued: "But we're very much on top of this, we're very aware of it. Very mindful of the sensitivity of this issue, and the airport, the airline Accident Investigation Department, their job is not search and rescue.
"Their job is to investigate the wreckage once it's been found. The actual location of the wreckage is the job of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. They're the ones that will find it for us and then Accident Investigation people will come down and look at the wreckage and do their investigation.
"We've got the insurance company on standby, the salvage company on standby. Once we find all of that we'll bring it up and process the site."
When asked how close investigators are to wrapping up the investigation, Mr D'Aguilar said: "Well there was an initial-- when they were down there and the weather wasn't terribly good. And we thought that we had gotten everything.
"Now that this wreckage has appeared…that has caused us to now take another look to see whether this plane that has been filmed and released on social media actually relates to that accident. So let's get that straight first, let's look at the plane, let's conclude that, and then we'll be in a position to report back."
Reporters also asked Mr D'Aguilar if the footage in the video has been confirmed to be a plane.
He said: "Well, obviously it's a film. So I'm sure they didn't put the…wreckage in the water. So they obviously filmed something. But you know, you've got to be very careful with social media.
"Make sure that it's in the Bahamian waters, it's a plane that crashed here. And we're just trying to find it so we can process the scene. Until that has been done, everything is still a question mark. So let's get some facts established and then we can report responsibly to the Bahamian people and not sensationalise this accident."
Asked if any other relevant departments have resumed searching for the plane since the video was posted, Mr D'Aguilar said: "What we're trying to do is find the exact coordinates of the wreckage.
"Once that's been done, if we know exactly where it is, then the Accident Investigation doesn't need a search and rescue because we know where it is. So they can go straight to the scene and they can begin to process it. Everybody wants to know what is this wreck and what it relates to so that it can be processed.
"We're as anxious as the family to bring this to a sensible conclusion. So we're very much on top of this."
Mr D'Aguilar was also asked to comment on reports that Bahamasair's recent launch into the Houston market has not been overwhelming.
He said: "I haven't gotten the facts on that yet, but I'm as interested as you to find out. The managing director is (travelling) this week, when I attempted to reach out to him, so I don't actually have those facts yet."