Four die in air ambulance crash near St Maarten
Investigations continue to determine the cause of tragic accident.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten, Wednesday May 09, 2012 – French civil aviation authorities are investigating the cause of the crash of a medical emergency flight that plunged into the sea near St Maarten on Saturday, killing all four aboard including a honeymooning cruise ship passenger from Cyprus who had suffered cardiac problems.
The plane was carrying the tourist to Martinique early Saturday for specialized cardiac care, according to a nurse at the St. Maarten Medical Centre.
A Cyprus foreign ministry official identified the victim as Panagiotis Vryonides of Nicosia and said he was around 30 years old.
The official also said that a diplomat from Cyprus' embassy in Washington DC would travel to Martinique, where Vryonides' widow is located, to offer support.
The government of Martinique said in a statement that a doctor and nurse, who had travelled from Martinique to accompany the patient, were also aboard the plane. They were identified as Jean-Michel Dudouit and Gerard Omere of the Pierre Zobda Quitman University Hospital Centre in Fort-de-France, director Daniel Riam said.
The pilot of the ill-fated air ambulance has been identified as Bruno Le Jeune.
The Piper Cheyenne III, owned by Transports Aeriens Intercaraibes, crashed four minutes after takeoff from L'Esperance Airport in St. Martin, the French territory that shares the island with St. Maarten, according to Martinique's government.
Unconfirmed eyewitness reports indicate that the aircraft burst into flames less than five minutes after takeoff and the pilot apparently tried to ditch it in the water.
Sea rescue operators told the media that the impact was tragic based on what they saw and recovered at the scene.
Martinique officials said they had originally sent another plane that had experienced mechanical problems on arrival at Princess Juliana airport in St. Maarten. It was replaced by the aircraft that ultimately crashed.