Coast Guard response to downed Bahamian aircraft highlights close partnership with Bahamian government

MIAMI – The Coast Guard’s response Monday to a downed Bahamian aircraft 23 miles from Freeport, Bahamas, highlights the Coast Guard’s close partnership with the Bahamian government.

Coast Guard Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) personnel received the report of a downed aircraft at about 11 a.m. Monday from Bahamas Air Sea and Rescue Association (BASRA) personnel in Freeport. The initial reporting came via air traffic control tower personnel at Grand Bahamas International Airport. Reports to the Coast Guard indicated the aircraft was going down due to engine trouble and the passengers were requesting assistance. The pilot had passed their tail call numbers before losing communication with the tower.

A Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., C-130 aircrew launched and assisted in the search for the down aircraft. At approximately 12:30 p.m., BASRA and Royal Bahamian Police Force (RBPF) boat crews located the downed aircraft with six persons aboard; simultaneously the Coast Guard C-130 crew was flying overhead and dropped a life raft, which was not needed. All six survivors were transferred and it was later confirmed that all persons were accounted for with no reported injuries.

“The U.S. Coast Guard has a long history of partnership with the Bahamian Search and Rescue Association,” said Lt. Cmdr. Louie Parks, the U.S. Coast Guard OPBAT Director. “Because of our close working relationship with the RBPF, RBDF (Royal Bahamian Defence Force) and BASRA, we were able to assist in the relocation of the downed aircraft, direct BASRA and RBPF boats to the scene to pick up the aircraft survivors and get them to safety.”

Instrumental in Monday’s search efforts, BASRA is an all volunteer rescue organization in the Grand Bahamas. With two dedicated rescue boats and volunteer aircraft based in Grand Bahama Island, BASRA volunteers work closely with the RBDF and the Coast Guard throughout the 700 islands of the Bahamas responding to a multitude of emergencies ranging from airplane crashes, sinking boats, and disabled and adrift fishermen.

With the Bahamas only 50 nautical miles from Florida, the island nation is a popular destination for American boaters. When Bahamian and American boaters find themselves in distress, a BASRA volunteer radio operator is often the first to hear the MAY-DAY call that triggers the search and rescue response by Coast Guard and Bahamian authorities. Simply through radio hails or phone calls to its well-established network of contacts at marinas and port facilities, BASRA has located thousands of boats reported missing by family members, saving countless resource hours in unnecessary search and rescue efforts for vessels safely moored in a local marina or anchored in one of the many pristine anchorages in the Bahamas.

“We are relieved that the six families are safe and that the U.S. Coast Guard was there, ready to assist,” said U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas, Nicole A. Avant. “This is another great example of the tangible benefits that come from the close relationship between the U.S. Coast Guard, Bahamian Authorities and the dedicated volunteers of BASRA.”

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