Sunday, March 07, 2021

Piper Warrior PA-28-161, N2932Y: Fatal accident occurred March 05, 2021 near Salina Point, Acklins, Bahamas

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; South Florida

Aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances.
Tamal C. Sands

Date: 05-MAR-21
Time: 17:50:00Z
Regis#: N2932Y
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA28
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Total Fatal: 2
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)
Operation: 91
Country: BAHAMAS

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

A relative of missing passenger Stephen Sawyer says the family will continue to search for him as they “believe wholly and solely” that he’s alive, more than three weeks after the plane he was on crashed in waters near Salina Point.

The family member spoke after a preliminary report by the Air Accident Investigation Authority into the plane crash off Acklins earlier this month said there has been no recovery of the aircraft or its occupants. 

The report released yesterday, noted that since March 5 when Sawyer and pilot Cliff Dean went missing, there has been no recovery of the aircraft or its occupants.

Speaking to The Tribune, Sawyer’s brother Charles Sawyer, said the family has not given up hope despite what the report says.

On the morning of March 5, the men were headed to the Dominican Republic where Sawyer owns a business, when the plane went down in the ocean.

According to the report by Chief Investigator Captain Delvin Major, at 5.17pm the AAIA was notified that a Piper PA-28-161 aircraft headed to the Mathew Town Airport in Inagua was overdue.

The plane left Nassau at 7am and information contained in the flight plan estimated the trip would have a duration of three hours and 20 minutes.

However, there was no cancellation of the flight and checks by Nassau Air Traffic Control revealed that the aircraft did not reach its intended destination.

Mr Sawyer said: “We can’t afford to give up. We have searched Great Inagua, Little Inagua, Mayaguana, Acklins and we have one cay left. Somebody down there, as soon as the weather eases up, will do the last one.

“If nothing pops up then we are in contact with Cuban authorities and are trying to get whether two Bahamians entered there or were in their space. If they were in Cuban waters they will keep them there until it can be determined that there was no nefarious reasoning for being there.

“We are still actively searching.”

They have not been discouraged by the report, Mr Sawyer telling this newspaper that at times dead ends are “good signs”.

“Sometimes you come up with dead ends but sometimes that’s a good sign because that means they aren’t dead. That keeps you going because if you don’t find a body, there is still a possibility they are still alive, which I believe wholly and solely.

“We are still grateful to aviation and the Defence Force, the US and BASRA because they helped us. Even though the effort has been downgraded to search and recovery but we are in contact with them constantly.

“We just decided to band together and a couple people down south have been able to search and they know the area better than us so (we) have to rely on them.”

He said loved ones were aware of the report before it was released and view it as a formality in instances like this one.

The AAIA report further noted that the last radio communication with Air Traffic Control via Exuma Flight Information Services was at 8.06am.

“At this point in flight, Miami ARTCC (Air Route Traffic Control Centre) provided radar coverage. At approximately 80 miles northwest of MYIG, the aircraft target dropped from Miami Centre Radar. The last known position of the aircraft was 22° 05.352N 074° 26.136W,” the report said.

Not long after, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Operations Command Centre received reports of the overdue aircraft and initiated their emergency protocols.

“Bahamas Air Navigation Services and RBDF made contact with airports in Mayaguana, Exuma, Crooked Island, Long Island, San Salvador and Ragged Island, with all reporting negative aircraft sighting.

“The United States Coast Guard assisted the RBDF in search and rescue efforts, through the provision of aerial and maritime assets (C130 fixed wing, halo and coast guard cutter). RBDF vessels HMBS Kamalame and HMBS Lignum Vitae conducted searches to canvas the surrounding area.

“Search and rescue efforts continued into Wednesday March 10, 2021. After which, it transitioned into search and recovery mode. Up to the production of this report, there has been no recovery of the aircraft nor its occupants.

“A review of the maintenance records provided by the aircraft owner revealed that the aircraft was maintained in accordance with regulatory requirements. Evidence of an annual inspection, as required, was provided.”

The report said documentation was provided showing the most recent maintenance activity prior to the crash was conducted on February 6, 2021, which was a 50 hour inspection. 

The report notes it was not known if there were passenger and crew injuries or whether there had been aircraft damage, a fire or explosion.

Bahamian pilot Stephen Sawyer, 45.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As the search continues for missing pilot Stephen Sawyer and his passenger, Clifford Livingstone Dean, relatives of the pilot yesterday urged residents, particularly those on Acklins, to join the search to find the men.

The single-engine aircraft is believed to have crashed in waters off Salina Point, Acklins, last Friday.

The men departed New Providence and were en route to Inagua around 5pm, according to authorities.

However, the pilot’s brother, Charles, and sister, Stacey Neily, said the men were heading to the Dominican Republic, where they conducted regular business, and were expected to return on Saturday.

“My brother is one of those people who is well equipped and he is always trying to find ways to make things happen,” Sawyer said.

“He has always explained how he is going to get out of his place if it goes down.

“So, I feel he still alive.

“We feel he is still alive and it is just a matter of getting to him to rescue him.”

Holding back tears, Neily said it has been difficult to process not finding her brother and Dean.

“We just don’t have no answers and don’t know where he is at right now,” she said.

Sawyer said there was a communication from his brother around 9am Friday and the plane could be tracked from the radar system.

But a short time later, communication was lost.

Sawyer said the family has sought to travel to Acklins since Sunday, but weather conditions have not permitted it.

He said they hope to get to the southern island tomorrow to join in the search.

“We are looking for people to go in the marshes,” he explained.

“With the current pulling, maybe they could have gotten off on one of the little cays or something and [are] just stranded.

“If we can just get into all those marshes and search those places, I am sure we can come up with them.”

According to the family, debris from a plane was found on Saturday, but it was not from the recent crash.

The family launched a Facebook page titled “Rescue Stephen Sawyer and Cliff Dean Bahamas” yesterday in an effort to garner the public’s assistance in finding the en.

Speaking with Eyewitness News around 2pm yesterday, Air Accident and Investigation Department (AAID) Chief Investigator Delvin Major said the latest information from his office and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) indicated that the search was ongoing and had expanded.

The United States Coast Guard is assisting the RBDF in the ongoing search.

“They searched the areas where they believe the aircraft went down, which is around the Acklins area,” Major said.

“They have searched all of the cays near Acklins as well as the coastline of the Acklins island itself.

“Up to today, when I spoke to the defense force around 10am, they still have not recovered the aircraft or located any of the occupants who were on the aircraft.

“The two gentlemen that were on the aircraft have not been located up to this time.”

Asked about the next steps for the AAID, Major indicated that the authority remains on standby as its investigation will occur the moment the aircraft is recovered.

He said in the interim, preliminary information such as weather conditions and the flight plans were being reviewed.


  1. The lagoon west of Acklins is mainly 6-10 feet deep and the water is swimming pool clear. If the plane is there then they'll easily find it. Outside the lagoon the ocean plunges to a depth of 5,000 - 8,000 feet only a few miles further west of the lagoon. If there then, obviously, they'll never find it.

  2. The last ADS-B data point recorded as the aircraft got beyond ground reception of the signal was adjacent to Acklins, but the plane was in a steady 100 ft/minute descent out of 7900' that had been underway at constant 117 knots ground speed for 24 minutes.

    Altitude was 5400' passing by Acklins at last received data point and the track was lined up for the airport on the west end of Inagua, with 91 statute miles to go.

    The ADS-B data suggests that the aircraft could continue the descent for 54 minutes past the Acklins data point. At 117 knots ground speed, the airport at Inagua was easily reachable in the descent profile that was underway if it continued uninterrupted.

    Seems unlikely that the aircraft passing by Acklins at 5400' would end up in that vicinity. Maybe the coast guard ship radar had the aircraft on screen and saw it go in at Acklins. If not, searching near Inagua would be important to do.

  3. But no radio call or ELT signal? We may never know....more fodder for the Triangle folks.