Close to 100 emergency personnel from the French and Dutch side are searching for four persons that were on board a TAI Medivac plane that departed the L'Esperance Airport in Grand Case at 2:39am Saturday morning enroute to Martinique. Prefet Delegue Phillipe Chopin told SMN News that he is currently in charge of the rescue operation taking place between Tintamare, Pinel Island, and Cul de Sac where it is believed the aircraft fell. Chopin said that a doctor, nurse, patient and pilot were on board when the plane fell and up to 10am Saturday morning the bodies of the victims were not found. Chopin further explained that two divers from the Gendarmerie were involved in the operation since early Saturday morning and they are expecting six more divers from Guadeloupe sometime Saturday afternoon to continue the search. Chopin said the divers managed to recover some parts from the plane which are being stored at Anse Marcel. He said an investigation is now underway which will be lead by the Prosecutor Jacques Louvier. Prosecutor Jacques Louvier was also at the Grand Case Airport on Saturday morning with the two divers that were part of the rescue operation.
Prefet Chopin said their priority right now is to find the victims that were on board the aircraft and then they will do their best to locate the aircraft. SMN News learnt that the Dutch sea rescue team left the scene after they found the landing gear and other parts from the aircraft just after 10am.
SMN News has reliably informed that the rescue personnel already found some body parts in the water. One source on the scene said they found half of a body and other body parts of the victims floating in the water. However, Prefet Chopin said he will not confirm if the information we received is true. It should be noted that while Prefet Chopin said there were two divers from the Gendarmerie at the scene, SMN News saw that both divers had already left the scene way before those from Guadeloupe arrived.
Eyewitnesses say that the aircraft burst into flames less than five minutes after take-off and the pilot tried to ditch the plane but somehow misjudged the height of the plane from the sea since it was extremely dark. Sea rescue operators told SMN News that the impact was tragic based on what they saw and recovered at the scene.
SMN News learnt that the St. Maarten Medical Center contacted a hospital in Martinique and asked that they send an air ambulance for the patient sometime late Friday evening. Sources said that an air ambulance came in at the Princess Juliana International Airport just after midnight Friday to pick up the patient but they encountered mechanical problems and the aircraft could not start for them to leave. It is further understood that is when TAI was contacted to transport the patient and the crew that came in to evacuate the patient to Martinique.
According to information reaching SMN News, a Greek-Cypriot tourist on board one of the cruise ships was taken to the St. Maarten Medical Center when he got a severe heart attack. The source said the man, was on his honeymoon on the ship and while on St. Maarten he got a severe heart attack and needed emergency medical care. President of the L'Esperance Airport identified the pilot of TAI as Bruno Le Jeune (43).
It should be noted that the French civil aviation halted the services of Jet Budget on November 15, 2011 after they were informed that TAI was having financial problems and that the Louis Constant Fleming Hospital had terminated TAI contract and awarded it to Jet Budget. According to reports from LCF Hospital, TAI's services were not in compliance with up to date medical evacuation for critically ill patients. The union once said that their timeworn and poorly equipped aircraft offers precarious transportation conditions.