The RCIPS note the contents of the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch‚Äôs report on the aircraft accident that occurred on Cayman Brac on the evening of Sunday 13th November 2011.¬† At the time, local officers and fire and rescue attended the location and on establishing that there was no hope for survivors, sealed off the scene.¬† Supported by additional resources from Grand Cayman, which included on the night the RCIPS Air Operations Unit, and then later CID officers, a joint investigation was launched that included the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands and the Cayman Islands Airports Authority.
The RCIPS investigators, including CID and DSCTF officers, the Joint Intelligence Unit and the Air Operations Unit worked alongside the AAIB inspectors.¬†¬† It was clear early on in the investigation that the flight this aircraft was embarked on was not in accordance with the international rules of aviation or the subject of any official flight planning.¬† Police analysis of the GPS tracks of the aircraft from data supplied by the AAIB recovery of GPS units found on the aircraft showed that the planned route was from Mexico into Venezuela.¬† There was evidence pilots using these GPS Units in the weeks prior had made long distance flights from Central America into Venezuela, returning into unrecognized landing sites in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.¬† At no time was there any evidence that previous or intended routes included the Cayman Islands, or passing close to the Islands.
Following liaison with all the RCIPS partner agencies in the region including those in the United States, the RCIPS investigators conclusion is that the aircraft‚Äôs intended destination was not Cayman Brac but, as indicated in the AAIB report, was as a result of technical problems and the need to reach land.¬† As both pilots died instantly, it will always be a matter of conjecture the reason for the deviation, and indeed the purpose of the flight.
‚ÄúBoth pilots were commercial pilots from their respective countries of Mexico and Columbia,‚ÄĚ said RCIPS Air Operations Commander Steve Fitzgerald.‚ÄĚ Therefore, they would have been fully aware of the International requirements of flight planning and the risks associated with unauthorised fuel modifications, together with flying a single engine aircraft over 1,000 miles of sea and at night.¬† The addition into the cabin of plastic open fuel containers is an incredible risk that both pilots must have been aware of.‚ÄĚ
A full search of the scene and the aircraft at the time confirmed that no cargo, other than the fuel containers, was found at the scene.
The Coroner has been informed and will be subsequently holding an inquest into the deaths.
Extracts from the AAIB report into the Cayman Brac plane crash.
At about 0345 hrs residents on the southern coast of Cayman Brac heard a light aircraft piston engine.¬† They later considered that the aircraft appeared to be crossing the coast from south to north. ¬†At about 0400 hrs the owner of a nearby property heard an aircraft engine and, as this was unusual, walked out onto his driveway, where he saw a single engine aircraft pass from west to east overhead. The aircraft was displaying no lights and was difficult to see. ¬†Another witness heard the engine noise decrease to nothing, then sharply increase before suddenly stopping. ¬†Believing that a crash may have occurred, this witness called the emergency services. Wreckage was located¬† and ¬†the ¬†crash ¬†site ¬†secured ¬†at 0500 hrs. Two crewmembers were discovered by rescue personnel; both had received fatal injuries.
No international flight plan relating to this flight could be found.
The accident site was immediately adjacent to an isolated straight road approximately 28-30 ft (8.5-10 m) wide that had been built in preparation for proposed residential development. ¬†(The wingspan of a standard Cessna 210 is 36 ft 9 in.) A line of substantial wooden telephone/power cable poles had been installed at approximately 70‚Äď80 m intervals along the southern edge of the road, which was orientated approximately east to west. ¬†Evidence suggested that the aircraft had attempted to land westbound along the road.¬† ¬†The ground each side of the road was covered with dense vegetation consisting of bushes, cacti and small trees growing out of a rough, frangible limestone base. ¬†The nature of the terrain was such that smaller pieces of wreckage were not found.
The first evidence of aircraft contact with a ground‚ÄĎbased obstacle was a light scuff on one of the wooden poles, approximately 8 m above the base.¬† A small fragment of fibreglass from the left wingtip was found on the road nearby.¬† It was apparent that the left wing had subsequently struck a number of trees to the left of the road, resulting in pieces of wing structure breaking away. Approximately 140 m from the initial contact there had been a major impact with another pole, most probably on the nose of the aircraft. ¬†This had caused major disruption to the airframe, and was probably responsible for the severity of the injuries sustained by the crew. The impact had resulted in the top half of the pole snapping off, coming to rest approximately 10 m further down track. The disposition of the wreckage, together with the damage to the vegetation, indicated a steepening left bank angle that resulted in the aircraft performing a cartwheel before coming to rest in an upright attitude, pointing approximately 90¬ļ to the right of its impact track.
The aircraft had been carrying ten 60-litre detergent containers that held varying amounts of Avgas fuel; these were found in the aircraft cabin and in the immediate vicinity. ¬†In addition, lengths of flexible hose and quick-release couplings, originating from the wing roots, protruded from the cabin roof.
The major impact with the pole had resulted in the engine becoming detached and the propeller hub sustaining extensive damage.
The landing gear was found to be down when the wreckage was lifted. After being placed on the ground, the main landing gear legs appeared to engage with their uplocks and did not subsequently hang down again when the fuselage was next lifted. This suggested that the gear had been extended at the time of the accident.
There was insufficient evidence to determine the purpose of the flight, but there were indications that it was intended to be clandestine, including the modified fuel system, the intended route and the unidentified flight plan destination.
The recovered documents and GPS data indicated that the aircraft had previously departed Guadalajara for a flight to Chetumal, Mexico; a great circle distance of approximately 858 nm. ¬†This was within the theoretical range of a standard Cessna 210 and appears to have occurred without incident, arriving at 2035 hrs. ¬†The crew filed a flight plan for an unidentified destination then departed, initially to the north before turning south and crossing the border into Belize.¬† The aircraft landed briefly at an improvised airstrip, then departed and flew east for some 490 nm, at which point the GPS track ended. ¬†If GPS B was powered solely by the aircraft electrical supply then a failure of the electrical system could result in the recorded track ending in the manner found. Equally, the GPS could have been deliberately or inadvertently unplugged.
The reason for the deviation from the original track was not determined. However, there was evidence of failure of the electrical system, which would have affected navigation instruments and prevented use of additional fuel carried in the cabin. ¬†The crew may not then have been confident either of maintaining their original course or of having sufficient fuel to complete their intended journey. ¬†They may have decided instead to follow a northerly route towards the large landmass of Cuba. Thus, the aircraft‚Äôs arrival at Cayman Brac may have been a coincidence. It is possible that the straight road, which according to the ASU would have been clearly visible in the moonlight, appeared to present an opportunity for a forced landing and an alternative to continuing the flight. The unsuitability of the road as a landing site suggests it was not the planned destination and it is more likely that the landing was attempted following problems with the aircraft or crew.
The aircraft probably suffered an electrical failure, which prevented use of the modified fuel system intended to provide additional range. The aircraft then deviated from its original flight path, possibly because the crew intended to divert to Cuba, and its track passed over Cayman Brac. Evidence indicates that the pilot attempted to land on a road. ¬†The aircraft was destroyed when it encountered obstacles, including poles, beside the road.
The manner of operation of this aircraft, including extended flights over water and the modified fuel system, introduced risks to the flight of which the crew must have been aware.¬† No Safety Recommendations were made.
To view the whole AAIB report into the Cayman Brac plane crash go to: