KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, November 29, 2006 – SVG Air, the airline company which lost an aircraft a week and a half ago is convinced that the pilot and lone passenger are alive.
Managing Director, Paul Gravel, presented compelling evidence to support his case and though the authorities have called off the aerial search the SVG Air search and rescue continues.
Gravel has offer EC$10,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of the passengers or plane.
He told reporters here that the seats in which the pilot and passenger were sitting have been discovered and that pointed to the fact that both were able to unbuckle their seat belts and escape the aircraft.
In addition the pillow that the pilot always sat on was found floating as well as other things which are normally kept behind and under his seat.
In addition, some members of the public reported seeing a flare in the sky on the night of Sunday November 19 when the plane vanished within visual distance form the E.T. Joshua Airport.
Gravel said that all the flares from the aircraft were found and they are all unused however, the pilot Dominic Gonsalves kept his own personal flare gun with him. This gun had a range of up to 800 feet when fired from the surface and it was probably this flare that people saw.
In addition, Gravel said that Gonsalves was an ardent wind surfer, the sea – as is the air – was second nature to him and he strongly believed, that the pilot of 26 years experience knew how to escape from the downed aircraft and that he did and took the lone passenger with him.
“He was a world class wind surfer and everyday off and every morning and afternoon after work, Dominic would surf the east coast of Shipping Bay. He is a phenomenal swimmer so he is a survivor. If anybody is going to get out it’s going to be him,” Gravel told reporters.
Gravel said that people, after being presumed dead after crashes had been found alive weeks after the event and he was persuaded that one day the phone would ring and Gonsalves would be on the other end.
“People have gone missing on planes and have turned up weeks later, so there is a remote chance that they have made it to Venezuela, Aruba, or Curacao. They could be on a fishing boat headed to Venezuela and nobody speaks English and the Venezuelans just continued their fishing trip and when they get back they just drop Dominic and Rasheed off on the first point,” he said.
Gravel would not be shaken from his strong belief that the two are not dead.
In the last week and a half many people combed the coastlines of St Vincent and nearby Bequia searching bays and more than 100 caves for the men.
Aerial search and rescue teams, however, returned to their bases in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela last Saturday but the St Vincent Coastguard continue a search.
Gravel said that efforts were underway to bring in sonar equipment to locate the sunken aircraft.
Director of Airports, Corsel Roberts, said that a preliminary report would be available by year-end.
The five-seat plane was on a routine flight from Canouan in the Grenadines to the mainland St Vincent with one passenger onboard – Rasheed Ibrahim, the Supervisor of American Eagle in Canouan. On final approach to the ET Joshua airport around 6:51 pm, as the pilot was descending 1100 feet over Bequia he radioed the Control Tower to advise on his position and seek permission to land. He was cleared for landing and advised the tower that he should be on the ground around 6:55 pm. He never landed.