Falcon crash in Bahamas mars 2009 safety record
The sole fatal accident involving a U.S.-registered business jet in 2009 occurred on December 17 when a Dassault Falcon 20D crashed on the sparsely populated island of Great Inagua in the Bahamas, claiming the lives of captain Harold Mangel and first officer Freddy Castro (the only people aboard the twinjet). N28RK, operated by Florida-based FL Aviation Group, was en route from Aruba to Fort Lauderdale after a fuel stop in the Dominican Republic when it went down. As tracked by FlightAware, the aircraft was at FL280 flying at 360 knots when it vanished from radar near the island. According to the Bahamian Flight Standards Inspectorate, which is managing the investigation, residents of Great Inagua reported hearing a loud bang that rattled the windows and doors of their homes.
Coast Guard Lt. James Bates was flying a routine law enforcement mission in his HH-60 Jayhawk on the northern side of the island when he and his crew noticed the fireball at around 7:30 p.m. “The crash happened just off our right side as we were flying and the explosion completely brightened our night-vision goggles. It was a vertical explosion of about 200 to 300 feet in size. It was no
more than six miles away from us, right on our right door when it crashed,” he told AIN. “It took us only four minutes to arrive on scene over the area, and when we got there we found about a 10-acre area of debris that was burning. We really couldn’t make out anything at all. At about that same time we heard Miami Center making callouts trying to get the pilots from that tail number to respond.”
After surveying the crash site, Bates radioed his superiors to notify a fire rescue crew, which he then picked up and transported back to the area. With no suitable place to land, the rescue crew used the helicopter’s hoist and basket to reach the ground for an unsuccessful search for survivors.
Flying over the site the next day, Bates noted that the accident site had a small impact point. Two days after the accident, Bates ferried an investigation team–including representatives from the NTSB, FAA and Dassault–to the site, which is located in an inaccessible wildlife preserve approximately a dozen miles from Matthew Town. –C.E.