Mourning goes on for lost pilot


Byron Ferguson


Tribune Staff Reporter

HIS pilot’s uniform was wrapped in a frame that sat in front of the church, a reminder that he loved flying and died after a crash a year ago this month. Byron Ferguson went missing on November 8, 2018.

The wound remains sore for his family who gathered at the Bethel Baptist Church alongside friends on Friday to remember his life. His brothers, Bjorn, Ashton and Anvon Ferguson, told stories about his zest for life and passion for children, sports, family and flying.

“From very early on, we knew Byron was going to be a pilot,” said Bjorn Ferguson, struggling to maintain composure. He said before his death Byron was enrolled at a university completing his final semester, hoping to later practice aviation law. “Every and anything that concerned planes caught Byron’s interests. Our summer vacations became so memorable because we could rest assured that at some point while at the airport Byron was sure to get lost due to his fascination with planes.

“Everything he did was just positive. Not having him here is simply unexplainable. The void is so great and it’s just so painful and I know my brother is flying with angels.”

In the hard times that followed Byron’s presumed death, Dr Ashton Ferguson said many came to his family’s aid, teaching him the importance of community, which could “be an insurance policy against some cruelty that life could put in your path. It helps render you a little more immune to some of the loss and disappointment you have to face. As a result of this tragedy, watching my family grieve, I got a glimpse of what a community looks like. It’s all the people who turn up before you even ask to do the things that they don’t even have the time to do, all of the support, the kind words, the gifts, the food and just the time spent, it all meant a lot and we will be forever thankful.”

Anvon Ferguson spoke about Byron’s leadership in his own life, humouring attendees with a story of his brother’s support during a high school basketball game, support so cheery it summed up Byron as someone who “found the silver lining in everything”.

“It’s really tough to just think about going on without him because pretty much every aspect of my life, my taste in music, my taste in fashion, everything that I got I pretty much developed from knowing him,” he said.

The inability to quickly find Byron’s plane and his brothers’ criticism of recovery efforts commanded attention last year, coming to exemplify concern among some that the government couldn’t be trusted to provide quality rescue and recovery services.

In response, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis ordered a full review of the protocols, procedures and agencies involved in air accident response, with the investigation to be conducted by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and other relevant agencies.

The status of that investigation is unknown.

However, the Air Accident Investigation Authority released an interim report of the incident yesterday.

Investigators said the investigation was difficult to conduct because the plane, cargo and pilot all sank, going to a part of the ocean where they were “not humanely possible to be retrieved”.

Nonetheless, the AAID determined that Ferguson’s aircraft met regulatory requirements.

“Our investigation examined human factors thoroughly and determined that: fatigue was not a factor; the pilot was adequately trained to perform his duties, he was also certified for the aircraft and had many years of flying experience in this type of aircraft,” they wrote.

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force was criticised for calling off its search for Byron’s plane the night it went down.

Yesterday, Acting Commander of the Defence Force Raymond King suggested the RBDF is now better at responding to such incidents.

He noted that on October 18 a small aircraft went down in an almost identical spot to Byron’s plane.

“We responded timely and we were able to retrieve the two occupants of the aircraft and bring them in to Coral Harbour where they were given medical treatment before they were released,” he said. “We responded timely, the assets were there and so I was quite impressed with the response generally to that latest incident. It was quick, it was effective, in that we were able to get on scene quickly and we were able to safely rescue those men and get them to our medical facility.”

As for the prime minister’s comprehensive investigation, he was not in a position to give an update.