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GRAVEL: MISSING PILOT, PASSENGER MAY STILL BE ALIVE

GRAVEL: MISSING PILOT, PASSENGER MAY STILL BE ALIVE

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Managing Director of SVG Air Paul Gravel has expressed hope that his fellow pilot and brother-in-law Dominic Gonsalves and passenger Rasheed Ibrihim are still alive and though the aerial search has been called off his company is not giving up.

“He was a world class wind surfer and every day off and every morning and afternoon after work, Dominic would surf the east coast of Shipping Bay. He is a phenomenal swimmer so he is a survivor. If anybody is going to get out it’s going to be him,” Gravel told reporters.{{more}}

The Managing Director believes that both men had on life jackets and got out of the aircraft and may have swum ashore or maybe drifting at sea.

Gravel said St Vincent and the Grenadine has such a diverse coast line, he believes that the two may be ashore somewhere and were hidden from view.

He said that many private individuals including Barefoot Yacht Charters and several swimmers have spent the past week exploring bays and caves and during those expedition they discovered over 100 caves, some so big that a truck could be parked in them.

SVG Air is offering a reward of EC$10,000 for information leading to the discovery of the passengers or plane.

Gravel appealed to fishermen on the west or northwest coasts as well as planters at the Soufriere volcano to keep an eye out for the wreckage or the missing men.

Gravel also said that fishermen who know the sea coast described the currents as being so rough that they could take anything a long way before they reach land.

“People have gone missing on planes and have turned up weeks later, so there is a remote chance that they have made it to Venezuela, Aruba, or Curacao. They could be on a fishing boat headed to Venezuela and nobody speaks English and the Venezuelans just continued their fishing trip and when they get back they would just drop Dominic and Rasheed off at the first point. We are hoping for a phone call, failing that we would continue efforts. We still have not given up hope.”

Gravel revealed that people had reported seeing flares and while all the flares belonging to the plane were found unused, he said that Dominic always carried his own flares which had a range of 700 to 800 feet and maybe it was these that people saw.

Gravel also said that the fact that they found the seats in which the two passengers were sitting were strong indicators that the two might have opened the front and back doors and escaped.

He said that the front seat where Dominic was sitting, along with a pillow the pilot always carried so that he didn’t have back problems and the backseat of the aircraft where Rasheed was sitting were found floating.

Gravel explained that things which were kept under and behind the seats such as the yellow SVG Air chocks and the emergency safety devices such as life jackets, rafts and flares were other clues that the two doors were opened after the accident.

He said the disappearance was something as mysterious as the disappearance of planes in the Bermuda Triangle. One minute he was chatting with a LIAT pilot four minutes before the Dash 8 landed and the next minute, the SVG Aero-Commander 500 vanished.

Director of Airports, Corsel Roberts, said that the investigating team from the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) has concluded their interviews with airline, airport, and Control Tower staff as well as members of the public who gave information in the aftermath of the disappearance of the plane.

She said these investigations usually take a long time but a preliminary report was expected by the end of next month.

She also announced that the aerial search had been called off but efforts were underway to get sonar equipment to locate the wreckage underwater. Requests have been made to the United States, Venezuela, Barbados, and two private companies in Trinidad and Tobago.

The five-seat plane was on a routine flight from Canouan in the Grenadines to the mainland St Vincent. On final approach to the ET Joshua airport around 6:51 pm, as the pilot was descending 1100 feet over Bequia. He radioed the Control Tower to advise on his position and seek permission to land. He was cleared for landing and advised the tower that he should be on the ground around 6:55 pm. He never landed and they never noticed that the plane had not arrived until after 8:00 pm when SVG Air triggered the alarm. The search started around 9:30 pm.

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