Story by Robertson Henry
Tragedy hit the Grenadine island of Bequia at about 12:11 p.m.yesterday Thursday, January 4, 2024, when a small aircraft nose dived into the sea shortly after taking off from the JF Mitchell.
All on board perished when the fixed wing, single engine aircraft owned and operated by Robert Sachs, went down between Bequia and a smaller island named Petit Nevis just off the southern Bequia community of La Pompe.
Fishermen who were at a nearby fisheries complex immediately sprang into action and were able to locate the aircraft which had sunk into about 70 feet of water.
Divers, Shamdel Hanson and Maclean Snagg reportedly recovered the bodies. Other residents of Paget Farm, the community closest to the crash, helped to secure the bodies while they awaited the assistance of the SVG Coast Guard that had been summoned, a resident there told SEARCHLIGHT.
In a release, the police have identified the occupants of the small aircraft as Sachs and passenger Christian Klepser, 51 years old along with daughters Madita Klepser and Annik Klepser, 11 and 13 years old respectively.
The bodies of all four occupants on board the aircraft were recovered shortly after the crash and transported to mainland St. Vincent.
Police have told SEARCHLIGHT that the U.S registered private plane, was en route to Saint Lucia after taking off from the J.F. Mitchell airport with the four individuals on board, when tragedy struck.
Pilot, Sachs, who operates a dive business on Bequia, is said to have radioed the control tower informing them that he was experiencing difficulties and was returning to the airport. There was no further communication with the aircraft until word reached airport authorities that residents had seen a small plane plunging like a stone into the sea.
Residents from La Pompe, on Bequia’s south-east, are said to have become concerned when they heard sounds coming from the engine of the familiar aircraft which suggested that something was wrong, and soon after, the plane was seen plunging into the sea.
Images of the crash were captured on mobile phones and were circulated on social media. Sachs, who is from Florida in the United States, has resided on the northernmost Grenadine island for a number of years.
In addition to the pilot, social media posts which have since been confirmed, have identified the passengers as American citizens 51-year-old Christian Klepser, and his two daughters, aged 11 years and 13 years who are said to have been on holiday on Bequia and were returning to the US via St Lucia.
The four bodies were transported to the mainland by coastguard vessel just after 3:p.m and a post-mortem examination is expected to be conducted today, Friday January 5.
Members of the Serious Crime Unit within the Central Investigation Department are expected to travel to Bequia to take over the investigations into the tragedy, and assistance is expected from overseas agencies in determining the cause of the crash.
The plane is expected to be retrieved from the seas in the coming days. The RSVGPF said in its statement that it expresses condolences to all who are negatively affected by the tragic incident and it will update the public as more information is gathered.