PORT ANTONIO, Portland — As the search continued for the private aircraft which crash-landed some 14 nautical miles off the northern coast of Portland on Friday, the main search agency, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has stated that no debris from the plane has been found.
The disclosure followed a day of extensive searching by Jamaican and United States rescue agencies for the aircraft which had billionaire Laurence Glazer and his wife Janet, along with a pilot, aboard.
Addressing media representatives at the Errol Flynn Marina in Port Antonio yesterday, Lt Commander Judy Neil of the JDF said that while a calculated search-and-recovery operation was taking place, no debris from the crashed aircraft had been officially located as yet.
“The search-and-recovery operation by the JDF along with its partners started at the crack of dawn aided by additional assets from the United States Coast Guard in the form of a Cutter vessel — the USS Bernard Webber — and a helicopter.
“Debris of some sort, as can be expected at sea, was spotted from one of the aerial assets participating in the operation but nothing from the downed aircraft. That is the information at this time,” Lt Commander Neil said.
Neil informed journalists that the crashed vessel, a single-engine Daher-Socata TBM-900 light business and utility aircraft, was not fitted with the customary black box which is routinely used to record in-flight voice communication on most aircraft.
“The aircraft, which crash-landed just off our coast (Jamaica) yesterday, does not carry a black box. It was fitted with a Global Positioning System (GPS),” the JDF officer said without offering any further comment on the issue.
Lt Commander Neil stated that the heavy early-morning rain with its accompanying overcast conditions in no way hampered the efforts of the search-and-recovery team although from time to time the aerial assets had to return to land for refuelling.
“It is customary to have rain in Portland but the showers this morning did little to hamper our team. We got out early and just proceeded with our work and I am giving the assurance that we will continue our work until officially told not to do so. We are prepared, we are searching and we are very committed,” Neil said.
The three people feared dead left Rochester, New York, early Friday morning destined for Florida, but instead entered Cuban airspace, then flew over Jamaica before disappearing off the Portland coast around 1:10 pm, officials said. It followed concern raised by United States officials that they had tried to make contact with the aircraft’s pilot, without success.
It is suspected that the six-seater aircraft, which was manufactured in France, ran out of fuel and went down in the sea.
The Jamaican Government said yesterday that the search will continue for an undetermined period.
The Government said at a news conference held at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday that in addition to the Air Wing and Coast Guard of the JDF, the Marine Police and the United States Coast Guard were assisting in the search.
Commanding Officer of the JDF Coast Guard, Commander Antoinette Wemyss-Gorman, told journalists at the news conference that the JDF had continued its search operation throughout Friday night and into Saturday morning.
She said that the basic mission of the JDF Coast Guard was to continue the search to locate possible wreckage and/or survivors, while continuing to coordinate with all the partners in the search.
“The United States Coast Guard has deployed what is called a self-locating marker buoy and this piece of equipment will allow us further information to refine the search area,” Commander Wemyss-Gorman said.
Director General of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority, Leroy Lindsay, said three countries will be involved in the investigation of the plane crash — Jamaica, the United States and France.
“The depth we expect where the aircraft went in is about 2,000 metres and we might not have the assets to deal with that in Jamaica. The French have volunteered to assist, should we need equipment to go to those depths, to help us with the discovery of the aircraft,” he said.
Minister with responsibility for Information, Sandrea Falconer, who chaired the news conference, said that the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) had activated its national emergency operations to provide support and coordination to key agencies.
Briefings have also been conducted with fishermen from the Portland area advising them to make contact with the police if debris is spotted by one of their boats, Falconer said.
Additional reporting by HG Helps and the Jamaica Information Service.