Tonight three people are lucky to be alive after the Tropic Air Cessna they were travelling in experienced engine failure, and crash-landed in the sea between Turneffe and Lighthouse reef. But, the Captain, Denfield Borland showed remarkable grace under pressure and safely ditched the plane in a shallow area near to an island - where the Coast Guard and Belize Audubon Rangers were able to rescue him and two passengers.
The Civil Aviation Department has confirmed that the distress call came into the control tower at the PGIA at 4:17 pm from a Tropic Air Cessna 182 headed to Roatan. Pilot Borland told them that the single engine Cessna was experiencing difficulties and would not be able to reach its destination or any other airport, and would be making a water landing in the vicinity of Half Moon Caye.
Civil Aviation immediately activated the Coast Guard stationed at the Turneffe Atoll and the Belize Audubon Society - which operates a station at Half-moon caye. It is estimated that the plane went down at around 4:45, and at 5:09 PM, the joint team found the pilot and two passengers - reportedly on a safety raft which was onboard the plane.
The Coast Guard is now taking them to Blackbird Caye where Tropic Air will then handle the logistics.
Civil aviation says it will CARRY OUT A FULL AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION.
Experts tell us that the plane was flying at a few thousand feet when it experienced engine failure and this gave the pilot at least five minutes to coast and plot the safest landing area in shallow water, near to an island. The pilot is reportedly very experienced and is classed as a senior captain.
The aircraft is reported to be fairly new and the only one with what is known as a glass cockpit with the latest electronics. But, all that didn't prevent if from experiencing engine failure and taking a dive into the sea. IT's a real miracle all persons have been saved and no one was hurt, but it's also another bad mark on the record of Tropic Air. We'll have more on the story tomorrow.
As we told you at the top of the newscast, three persons are lucky to be alive tonight - after their plane crash landed in the sea between Turneffe and Lighthouse reef.
The plane is a single engine, four-seater Cessna 182 - something like this one - but with Tropic Air logos.
It was flying form Belize City to Roatan when it experienced engine failure and the pilot had to ditch the plane, meaning land it in the sea. He reportedly had time top coast down and choose a shallow area where he and his t3wo passengers were rescued unhurt about half hour after their crash landing.
They are reported n good condition tonight and were last known heading to Blackbird caye for transfer to Belize CITY.
A Tropic Air craft plunged into the Caribbean Sea today. On board were the pilot and two passengers, who are tonight lucky to be alive after the aircraft went down near Half Moon Caye shortly before five o’clock this evening. Captain Denfield Borland, along with Honduran national Eddie Bodden and American national Arthur Rogers, was en route to Roatan, Honduras after departing from the Phillip Goldson International Airport when the CESSNA-182 single-engine airplane began experiencing mechanical difficulties. The light utility aircraft went down shortly thereafter in the vicinity of Half Moon Caye and a daring maritime search and rescue operation, led by the Belize National has resulted in the safe recovery of the pilot and the two passengers. News Five spoke by phone with Commander Elton Bennett shortly after receiving word of the downed aircraft.
On the Phone: Elton Bennett, Commander, Belize National Coast Guard
“At about 16:45 this evening we received information that a small Tropic aircraft went down somewhere between the Turneffe and Lighthouse Reef atolls. The coordinates were sent to us and we charted a location and found it to be about fourteen miles east of our base at Calabash Caye and about four and a half miles northwest of Half Moon Caye where there is a joint coastguard and park rangers from the Audubon Society station. We immediately deployed our search units from both locations and just now, at about five minutes ago, at about 5:15, the team from the Lighthouse Reef and Half Moon Caye rescued the three men from off the plane that was still afloat and took them into Half Moon Caye. Our plans at this time is to have a vessel, a coastguard vessel transport those survivors from the rescue operation into Belize City.”
“Can you confirm whether or not the passengers were tourists or are they Belizean nationals?”
“At this point I really cannot confirm, I don’t have that detail at hand. All I know is that there were three persons were onboard and three persons were rescued.”
“Is the pilot among those three individuals?”
“Yes, the pilot is a part of the three persons accounted for.”
“Has he mentioned anything to the rescue operators as to what kind of problems he was experiencing?”
“Isani, at this time that’s all the information I have, I just received thus about thirty seconds before you called me. I still have not informed anybody else so please just give me a little more time so I can coordinate with the other agencies that are assisting with the search and then I could get you more details. At this time I don’t have any of that information and the operation is still ongoing. The survivors are still on the vessel being transported from the crash site to Half Moon Caye so I need to stand down some search units, some aircrafts that were deployed to assist with the search and inform the other relative authorities. So just give me a few more minutes for me to do some more coordination.”
News Five also contacted Tropic president, John Greif the Third, who told us that they have not been able to determine the value of the lost aircraft. On December fourth, 2014 a single engine Tropic Air plane crash landed on arrival at the Belize Municipal Airport. There were no injuries to the passengers or the pilot.
Tropic Air Plane Plunges Into Sea At Half Moon Caye
Late this evening, Tropic Air’s Cessna 182 en-route to Roatan Honduras being piloted by Captain Denfield Borland suffered mechanical problems and plunged into the sea. Best information to our newsroom is that the flight was taking two passengers identified as Arthur Rogiers, an American national and Eddie Bodden, a Honduran National. Fortunately, all three survived the crash. Reports are that at 4:17pm the control tower at the Philip Goldson International Airport received a distress call from the pilot who indicated that the aircraft was experiencing difficulties and would not be able to reach its destination or any other airport and would be making a water landing in the vicinity of Half Moon Caye. We understand that the department immediately activated search and rescue procedures. The Belize Coast Guard stationed at Turneffe Atoll immediately dispatched a vessel to the last know position of the aircraft and in addition the Belize Audubon Society which operates a station at Half Moon Caye was contacted.
Both passengers and pilot were rescued by Audobon Society personnel who were in the area at the time of the mishap. A source from Tropic Air tells us that the caravan captain has over four thousand air miles as pilot and the single engine Cessna is a fairly new airplane in Tropic’s fleet. We understand that a full investigation will be carried out in accordance with Belize’s regulations as well as international standards and recommended practices.
How Did It Happen?: Sea Rescue Of Airplane Passengers
Yesterday, we told you how three persons escaped unharmed after a Tropic Air Cessna 182 crash-landed in the sea between Turneffe Island and Lighthouse
Reef. At 4:17 pm, Pilot Denfield Borland called the air traffic control tower at Ladyville to tell them his single engine had failed – and he would
have to ditch the plane – an aviation term meaning land it in the sea. The plane was headed to Roatan, Honduras so it was up a few thousand feet. The
pilot used that height to glide for at least five minutes and find the safest, shallowest area in the sea to set the plane down. It sounds simple
enough, but it must have been a harrowing experience for his two passengers as they descended without power into the open sea.
But, everything worked out right, the pilot guided the plane safely to shallow waters, and a rescue team from the Coast Guard and the Audubon found
them safe and sound within minutes.
The Deputy Commandant of the Coast Guard told the press today what his officers encountered when they arrived at the crash site:
"Yesterday at about 4:45 we received information from civil aviation that a small tropic air craft went down somewhere between the turneffe atolls and
lighthouse reef atoll. We informed and dispatched our unit from the forward operating base just out at calabash caye - and we also deployed the joint
unit that we had stationed at half-moon caye with the park rangers from the audubon society. At exactly 5:05 - just 20 minutes after receiving the
call, the search unit arrived at the scene and rescued the 3 persons from on board the aircraft that went down. Upon arriving at the scene the 3
persons were on top of the aircraft - the aircraft has not yet sunk. They were rescued from that location and taken to half-moon caye where a coast
guard vessel transported them from that area into turneffe."
"Are you able to talk to us about what the officers observed with the plane?"
Commander Elton Bennett
"At this time the plane is semi-submerged. There is an investigation team on the scene from civil aviation. During high tide you can observe a portion
of the aircraft - so the aircraft is semi-submerged and the investigation will indicate what the future course of action will be. The owners of the
aircraft will determine what action they will take as it related to the aircraft."
Isani Cayetano - Channel 5 News
"With the correspondence with your assets on the ground, where you given any indication of the physical condition of these survivors?"
Commander Elton Bennett
"Yes, from what we understand the survivors were in very good health, good condition. There was no medical casualty to report."
"As it relates to other rescue missions that the coast guard has had to mount in the past, can you speak to the ease of this one perhaps? Or compare?"
Commander Elton Bennett
"When we received the information initially, we thought it would have been a very difficult operation considering the sea state yesterday. It was very
rough and overcast and it was a small aircraft that went down in the deep. But luckily our friends from the audubon society were within a 5 mile range
of where the aircraft went down. Hence the reason why we were able to quickly conduct that rescue operation.”
A team from the Civil Aviation Department has been at the area for most of the day doing an inspection for themselves, and although they’ve promised to
brief the media about their findings, the investigators were unable to make any comment today.
Tropic Air has declined any comment, and they’ve directed us to their page on their Facebook page as the only release of information to the public.
The statement says, quote, “On Tuesday evening…our four passenger, Cessna 182, V3-HHT…experienced an engine malfunction. The pilot was forced to make
an emergency landing at Lighthouse Reef Atoll.” The release adds that they were awaiting better conditions to be transferred back to Belize City.
We are told that they were brought in from Blackbird Caye early this morning and left the country this morning.
Investigation into Tropic Air mishap continues by the Department of Civil Aviation
Coast Guard Provides Further Details on Tropic Air Mishap
Tonight, there are further details and exclusive images of a Tropic single-engine aircraft which dipped in the Caribbean Sea soon after it departed the Phillip Goldson International Airport in transit to Roatan, Honduras. The incident happened just before five o’clock on Tuesday evening. The CESSNA-182 Skylane, piloted at the time by Senior Captain Denfield Borland, reportedly began experiencing mechanical problems mid-flight when weather conditions were not optimal. While the experienced Tropic Air pilot radioed that information to air traffic control at the P.G.I.A., he was unable to prevent the plane from diving into the waters below. Onboard with him were American national Arthur Rogers and Honduran National Eddie Bodden. Incredibly, all three men escaped the accident unscathed and were found atop the partially submerged aircraft minutes later by a joint team deployed from nearby Calabash and Half Moon Cayes. It was a bold rescue operation in view of marine conditions at the time of the emergency touch-down. This afternoon, Vice Commander Elton Bennett of the Belize National Coast Guard, elaborated on details of the successful search and rescue effort.
Elton Bennett, Vice Commander, BNCG
“Yesterday at about 4:45 we received information from [the Department of] Civil Aviation that a small aircraft went down somewhere in between the Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Reef Atoll. We informed and dispatched our unit from the forward operating base just out of Calabash Caye and we also deployed a joint unit that we had at the Half Moon Caye along with park rangers from the Audubon Society. At exactly 5:05, just twenty minutes after receiving the call, the search unit arrived on the scene and rescued the three persons from onboard the aircraft that went down. Upon arriving at the scene the three persons were on top of the aircraft, the aircraft had not yet sunk. They were rescued from that location and taken to Half Moon Caye where a coastguard vessel transported them from that area into Turneffe.”
“Are you able to talk to us about what the officers observed with the plane?”
“At this time the plane is semi-submerged. There’s an investigation team on the scene from [the Department of] Civil Aviation. During high tide you can observe a portion of the aircraft, so the aircraft is semi-submerged and the investigation will indicate what the future course of action will be. The owners of the aircraft will determine what action they will take as it relates to the aircraft.”
“With the correspondence with your assets on the ground were you given any indication of the physical conditions of these survivors?”
“Yes. From what we understand the survivors were in very good health, good condition. There were no medical casualties to report.”
Airline Company Tightlipped on Crash at Sea
Interestingly, Tropic Air has remained fairly tightlipped about the incident, not offering much by way of a brief release on the company’s Facebook page. On the other hand, Borland told the media that the rescue operation was not as challenging and, with assistance from the Belize Audubon Society; they were able to quickly locate the whereabouts of the survivors.
Elton Bennett, Vice Commander, BNCG
“When we received the information initially we thought that it would have been a very difficult operation, considering the sea state yesterday evening. It was very rough and overcast and it was a small aircraft that went down in the deep. But luckily our friends from the Audubon Society were within five miles range of where the aircraft went down, hence the reason why we were able to quickly conduct that rescue operation.”
“And certainly it’s not your purview to question the captain as to what difficulties he was facing.”
“Right, there is an investigation that will take place and the Civil Aviation will head that investigation. From our side it was just a rescue operation.”
When News Five spoke with representatives of Tropic Air this morning, we were informed that both passengers, Rogers and Bodden, were not in need of any medical attention, and were instead assisting the Department of Civil Aviation with its probe into the cause of the accident.
The Tropic Air Cessna 182 is still in the sea near Halfmoon Caye. The company and the Civil Aviation Department are making preparations to move it - but not timeline has been set. Once it is moved, Civil Aviation will go ahead with a preliminary report into the emergency landing. That preliminary report should finish sometime next week.
The single engine Cessna 182 had two passengers and a pilot on board when it experienced engine failure on Tuesday at 4:17 pm. It was headed for Raotan and the pilot was able to steer the plane without any engine power to a shallow area in the sea where he landed safely in the water. No one was hurt, and a joint Coast Guard and Audubon team was able to rescue all three by a few minutes after five.
This is the second Tropic Air plane to end up in the sea as a result of engine failure in six months. In December, A Tropic Air Cessna Caravan plunged into the waters adjoining the municipal airstrip in Belize City.