Ag Criticises Defence Force Plane Crash Response

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel.


Deputy Chief Reporter


ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel criticised the response of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to the recent plane crash suggesting the tragedy may not have been “properly” investigated because of how quickly the initial search was called off.

His comments in the Senate came shortly before a group of Bahamians said yesterday that their own search team had found pieces of the plane piloted by Mr Ferguson.

Mr Bethel said he would reach out to his colleagues to ensure that whatever “procedural missteps” occurred in this case and others would not happen again.

More must be done, he said, to ensure there is a sense of urgency and to drive home the principle of “no stone left unturned" when the country is faced with tragic plane crashes.

Mr Bethel joined fellow Senators Fred Mitchell and Ranard Henfield to voice concerns over the handling of the search and investigation of Mr Ferguson’s plane crash.

“The great difficulty right now, particularly with anything that results in a marine landing of some sort, is that the Civil Aviation Department has to rely on the efforts of another agency, usually the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. So in the last crash that occurred off of Andros, as I understand it, the search was called off maybe 50 yards away or so because of inclement weather or something, or it had gone on too long and the fellas got tired,” Mr Bethel said yesterday.


On Thursday, volunteers organised by Gina Knowles took only 40 minutes to find parts of the plane that was being flown by missing pilot Byron Ferguson. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff

“See the difficulty is, because it’s on the marine side, then an unmotivated entity, an entity that is not sensitised to that particular job – see it may be sensitised to catching smugglers, catching human traffickers, catching poachers (and) defence and so for this aspect of civil intervention into some crisis, perhaps there is a need for stronger sensitisation of the marine unit of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to ensure that the sense of urgency that the family feels is also shared by those who are in the immediate vicinity and that the principle of no stone left unturned until we find this thing must prevail, because this is the second time now and I am only going based on what I heard.

“They saw a piece of wreckage. They say they left the site. It boggles the mind if that is so. It is unimaginable.”

He continued: “And so if I feel that way about something like this, if my colleagues opposite here who sit beside me and if we feel as a body like that about a circumstance like that, how much worse does the family feel?

“So we have to spend some time with our colleagues, and I don’t believe there is any ill will or any malice or whatever, but we have to work with our marines. We have to work with our Defence Force to get them to see that, yes even if it’s only in finding a crash site that is as important to the defence of the well-being of the Bahamian people, defending our well-being because how can we prevent such things happening unless we properly investigate each and every one? How can we show our true concern for the human beings involved if we call off the search on the slightest pretence? It cannot be the situation. It cannot happen.

“And so I certainly in my position will reach out as quickly as is possible to my colleagues to see that whatever the error, whatever the procedural missteps . . .what may have happened in the past, that this will never ever, ever, ever be repeated again because plainly the damage being done to families and to the psyche of this nation by these things is simply unacceptable.”


For his part, Senator Henfield questioned the country’s lack of rescue helicopters given the Bahamas’ makeup and the frequency of crashes in these waters.

He also regretted that there is no legislation to govern crowd-funding in instances where money is needed to support rescue efforts.

He said: “A mutual friend of Byron yesterday, who is still in shock, indicated to me that the wife with a 10-month-old child is still walking up and down that beach, and the beaches, not eating and just asking people to help me look in the bushes, look over there, check that sand and all of our hearts break. But you know it is unfortunate we live in a country in a day like today where we have mega resorts, but we don’t have our own rescue helicopters in this country.

“We live in a country where we don’t have legislation in place for crowd-funding. I would watch in other countries and incidents would happen, persons are able to donate in the millions to the search and rescue of persons rather than just sit and wait for the government’s response.”

Opposition Senator Fred Mitchell added there was a need to beef up communication efforts between search agencies and families affected.

“I know this young man very well, his wife, his family, his brothers, his father, his mother and they all live in the Fox Hill constituency, but quite apart from that, I want to join in the concerns about how this accident was dealt with,” Mr Mitchell said. “I said to a family when there is a homicide in this country the police have a designated person that’s assigned to coordinate with the family what the police are doing.

“So they give you a telephone number and they give you a name and they say if there is anything you want to know about that investigation you call that person and that person will tell you what is happening with the investigation. Now that does not seem to apply in this case. Civil Aviation is the body I believe that’s responsible for the investigation. The issue they were talking about is how do I get information and are the officials speaking with one voice. It must be heart wrenching.”


Socrates 1 year, 6 months ago

I have advocated for some time that the Defence Force should be more properly reclassified as the Bahamas Coast Guard. That would help to better identify their purpose. Who are we kidding about defence? against who or what? Coast Guards do search and rescue but also inspections of boats, to avoid what happened in Exuma and they are responsible for patrolling and intercepting illegals trying to enter the country. so i say rebrand this organization and develop it accordingly.


quietobserver 1 year, 6 months ago

That suggestion makes a lot of sense. Even if they don't change the name, the core purpose and function towards defence of our country needs to extend to include search and rescue and proper disaster recovery efforts. Helicopters, transport aircraft or the like as the country can support and maintain. They find money for what's important to them.


TalRussell 1 year, 6 months ago

Ma Comrades, why is it we live in a country where we don’t have helicopters to carry out search and rescues but no shortage helicopters go roaring over communities at wee hours mornings to be beaming down search lights from copters to be chasing down supposedly illegal Haitian nationals. AG Carl Wilshire seemed agitated raised voice radio press conference, sure didn't come across as being conciliatory "let's all come together" as one towards defense forces Commodore.
It's pretty damn hard current members opposite to come together with the very governing people who think they won mandate to search out to lock up their former members colleagues who too once sat opposite?


ThisIsOurs 1 year, 6 months ago

Strange. Why chose this issue to speak up? They're lock step with all the other questionable stuff. I'm assuming they had to ok the crazy business license laws.


Schemer18 1 year, 6 months ago

I ain't reading all this rambling rubbish, & this government should of learnt from the Andros plane crash last year to put a proper protocol in plane for the Bahamas Aviation Department. Why are they waiting for a disaster to happen, & when the family of the crashed victims get upset, these people in charge then tries to throw the blame games on someone else. If you are elected by the people of the Bahamas do your job to safe guard the people.


TalRussell 1 year, 6 months ago

Few, likes very few comrades, does knows upon Minnis's forced firing by Peoples Her Excellency Marguerite, it was then when then red appointed by Minnis senator Carl Wilshire was forced resign from Upper Red Chamber - that he started being groomed by then Long Island MP Comrade Sister Loretta to support her short-lived and rough going tenure as red party leader.
{ Can't just be make such up, how a now regained his voice Carl Wilshire, was an early kinda supporter of the in limbo Minnis - all whilst sitting and observing if Minnis even had political future - all safely from fence }.


Truism 1 year, 6 months ago

Didn't a cabinet minister tell the press that no flight plan was filed? Where are you now Mr. Dames?


sheeprunner12 1 year, 6 months ago

Imagine these two at Cabinet meetings .......... smh


sheeprunner12 1 year, 6 months ago

Would love to be a fly on the wall tomorrow at Cabinet!!!!!!!!


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