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RSS, French teams join search, rescue mission

RSS, French teams join search, rescue mission



Monday, November 20

Vincentians woke up this morning to the news that a SVG Air plane had vanished the evening before and a massive search and rescue operation was underway.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told a televised session of Parliament this morning that the plane was piloted by Dominic Gonsalves, an experienced pilot for 26 years and a co-owner of the company. There was one other passenger onboard the Aero Commander 500S, Rasheed Ibrahim, the Supervisor of American Eagle in Canouan.{{more}}

Aircraft from the Barbados-based Regional Security System (RSS) and the French Rescue Service joined the Vincentian coastguard in the search around Bequia where the plane was last believed to be located. Calls of assistance have also been placed to Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and the US Embassy in Barbados for search and rescue assistance.

He said that he assured Martin Barnard, the owner of SVG Air and father-in-law of Dominic that an appropriate investigation would be conducted and would include circumstances “in respect of the aircraft coming out of the sky and also after the aircraft was down did the Tower respond in a manner which was in the best proficient and professional tradition and whether we mounted our search and rescue in the most efficacious way.”

The Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) has been advised and will conduct the investigation.


Later in the day, Director of Airports, Corsel Robertson, said that the plane, with registration number J8 VAX, left Canouan, on what should have been a 13-minute flight, at 6:42 pm Sunday. Four minutes later it contacted the Control Tower at the ET Joshua Airport which instructed the pilot that when he was passing the island of Bequia that he should again contact them. That he did at 6:51 pm to say that he was descending through 1100 feet and would be landing in four minutes.

He never arrived but the alarm was not raised until two and a half hours later when the coastguard along with other boats started a search around Bequia.

“The circumstances surrounding the delay are being investigated and the officers on duty at the time communication was lost with the aircraft have been relieved of their duties pending the outcome of the investigation,” said Robertson.


Just before nightfall SEARCHLIGHT learns from the Coastguard that debris has been found, dimming hopes that the pilot and passenger had survived.