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A fisherman hands over one of the bodies to Coast Guard personnel after retrieving it from the aeroplane, which sank to the seabed after crashing off Petit Nevis on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024.
A fisherman hands over one of the bodies to Coast Guard personnel after retrieving it from the aeroplane, which sank to the seabed after crashing off Petit Nevis on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024.
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A Bequia fisherman who helped to locate the wreckage of the aircraft that crashed off the island on Thursday killing all four people on board has criticised the response of the Coast Guard.

The fisherman, who asked not to be named, told iWitness News that he and his colleagues were at the Fisheries Complex in Paget Farm, on the southside of Bequia, when the single engine aeroplane crashed off Petit Nevis, a nearby cay.

He said that when they arrived in the area where the aircraft had plunged into the sea shortly after it had already sunken to the seabed.

However, the fishermen were able to locate the wreckage in some 60-80 feet of water and realised that the four passengers were still strapped inside and presumed dead.

The fisherman said that when they informed the Coast Guard interceptor that had by then arrived at the scene, they were told that the Coast Guard had to await the arrival of its divers to retrieve the bodies.  

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“We explained to them that the tide was now starting to run so if you left it (the wreckage) there, it was a (possibility) that we wouldn’t find the plane again, that it would drift off,” the fisherman told iWitness News.

He said the tide was going in a north-westly direction and would have carried the wreckage out into the open water.

The local fishermen then took the decision to retrieve the bodies from the wreckage and hand them over to the Coast Guard.

A rope and a buoy were then fastened to the wreckage to mark its location.

Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon, a military officer with experience in maritime matters expressed concern to iWitness News that the Coast Guard apparently had not stationed personnel in the area permanently until the wreckage was retrieved as part of the investigation.  

When iWitness News arrived in Bequia around 2 p.m. aboard one of the inter-island ferries, two Coast Guard interceptors, with the bodies of the crash victims on board, were in Port Elizabeth latched together, with Coast Guard and civilians, presumably medical personnel, on board.

Later Thursday afternoon, a similar interceptor was seen just offshore Paget Farm, but left the area sometime later.

Police on Thursday identified the crash victims as pilot Robert Sachs, of Bequia, who was also owner of the aircraft, registration number N4023B, and his passengers, Christian Klepser, 51, of the United States and his daughters, Madita Klepser, 10, and  Annik Klepser, 12.

The aircraft, a single engine Belanca Viking 300, crashed about one nautical mile west of Petit Nevis, sometime after midday.

“The aircraft went airborne from the J.F. Mitchell Airport in Paget Farm about 12:11 p.m. for St. Lucia as its final destination. Moments after taking off, the aircraft experienced difficulties and plummeted into the ocean,” police said in a statement.  

“Fishermen and divers from Paget Farm went to the scene of the incident in their boats to render assistance. The SVG Coast Guard was informed and quickly travelled to Paget Farm, Bequia to lead in the rescue efforts.”

Police said Coast Guard personnel recovered the bodies from the sea, and they were pronounced dead by a medical practitioner.

The bodies were transported to St. Vincent on board a Coast Guard vessel and were taken to the Kingstown Mortuary, where post-mortem examinations are expected to be carried out to ascertain the cause of death.

“The RSVGPF expresses condolences to all who are negatively affected by this tragic incident. The RSVGPF will update the public as more information is gathered. Investigation into the matter continues,” the police statement said.

3 replies on “Fisherman criticises Coast Guard’s response after plane wreckage located”

  1. The nation thank you fishermen for your bravery. I hope in some form you all can be recognized. Condolences to the families but what a shame on the Coast Guard service. No wonder the amount of illegal firearms in this country.

  2. Doug king Howard says:

    It’s very good to see that you can always count on the COMMON MAN and not the people who is being paid to do the job and is not doing it, remember ROCK GUTTER, same situation here, it looks like the COAST GUARD PEOPLE is afraid to get wet in the sea!!!

  3. Congratulations to the divers! Deepest sympathy to the surviving family members and friends. Hurt to hear of his tragedy. The relevant authorities must seriously enforce security laws on private owners of planes so that they do serious checking of planes before takeoff, the way pilots of commercial planes do.

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