Thursday, October 12, 2006
Coast Guard rescue crews from Air Station Clearwater, Fla., located two men stranded on an island in the Bahamas after the two were forced to ditch their small aircraft.John "Jack" Bettencourt, 55, a Miami resident, and Mark Zdunczyk, 58, an Albany, Ga., resident, left Cap Haitien, Haiti Saturday in a Piper Aztec heading for Exuma, Bahamas and ran out of gas over the Acklin Islands which are located almost 400 miles southeast of Miami and 100 miles northeast of Cuba. Commercial airline pilots from United Airlines Flight 1675, American Airlines Flight 1345 and Spirit Airlines Flight 259 heard the mayday sent by Bettencourt prior to his crash landing in the water. Miami Center relayed that information to the Coast Guard at 11:41 a.m.
USCGC Decisive (WMEC-629)Search and rescue controllers at the Seventh District Command Center in Miami began coordinating a massive search effort for the two people. Rescue teams from Air Station Clearwater were first to launch at 11:45 a.m., followed by Coast Guard helicopters from Great Inagua, Bahamas, Air Station Miami, a C-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Clearwater and deployed helicopters from the Cutters. Decisive (WMEC-629) and Diligence (WMEC-616) USCGC Diligence (WMEC-616)A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft crew located the aircraft wreckage at 1:48 p.m. and shortly after found Bettencourt on a small cay about a half a mile away from the crash site. After the crash, the two were able to swim to shore where Zdunczyk was found laying under a lean-to shelter while Bettencourt was found walking down the cay looking for help. Both were transferred to Provindenciales International Airport in the Turks and Caicos where they were met by local EMS and taken to Government Hospital. C-130 Hercules"This was a very challenging case given it's remote location and limited information about the aircraft, the survival equipment on the plane and the experience of the crew, said Nancy Nelson," search and rescue specialist for the Seventh District Command Center. "It took total team effort for four aircraft and two cutters to search more than 10,000 square miles." The Coast Guard used five different aircraft and had a combined search time of more than 60 hours.