Guyanese pilot who illegally removed planes from Ogle airport dies in US crash

Munidat “Raj” Persaud

A plane crash off the coast of Long Island, New York City on Saturday has claimed the life of an overseas-based Guyanese pilot and left two persons missing.

NBC Connecticut has identified the dead man as 41-year-old Munidat ‘Raj’ Persaud, of Waterbury, Connecticut, United States. Persaud was implicated in the unauthorised removal of two planes from the Ogle airport in June 2016.

New York and Connecticut news agencies on Saturday reported the crash of a twin-engine Piper PA-34, which occurred about a mile off of Quogue, in the Hamptons, sometime around 11am that day. A probe is underway by U.S. aviation authorities to determine the factors that led to the crash. NBC Connecticut reported that it was unclear if the rainy weather at the time of the flight was a contributing factor in the crash.

Rescue personnel searching for the plane that crashed into the waters off Quogue on New York’s Long Island on Saturday. (James Carbone/Newsday via AP)

Persaud’s body was recovered from the ocean by rescuers who were deployed to the area following the crash. As of yesterday, search and rescue teams returned to the area and continued to comb the area “using sonar to map the sea floor in an effort to locate the two missing people,” NBC Connecticut quoted Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier as saying.

“The aircraft originally departed from the Waterbury-Oxford Airport, then landed at Danbury Municipal Airport before departing again for Charleston Executive Airport in South Carolina, according to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the CT Airport Authority,” the NBC Connecticut report said.

The report added that the site of the crash is three miles southeast of the Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach. One eyewitness, Tim Carbone, was working at the nearby Oceanfront Surf Club at the time, and he told CBS New York that he thought it was a stunt plane.

“I was looking to see if I could find the plane and I couldn’t see it, and then ‘phoom,’ it was done,” he said. “It was like the engine was stopped immediately,” Carbone said.

In Guyana, news of the pilot’s death saw an outpouring of shock and messages of condolence to his family from persons in the local aviation arena.

Persaud was the subject of an aviation investigation in Guyana when he and another pilot left Guyana illegally with two planes under the cover of darkness in 2016.

Around 4am on June 25, 2016, two Cessna 206 aircraft, bearing registration numbers 8R-GTP and 8R-GMP and owned by Oxford Aviation, took off from the Ogle airport. They did not have the necessary Guyana Civil Aviation Authority clearance and permission to fly while, at the time, there was a High Court injunction in place barring the aircraft from leaving this jurisdiction. That court matter stemmed from another company, Domestic Airways, owned by pilot Orlando Charles, filing litigation for payment for damage reportedly caused by one of the Oxford Aviation planes.

It was reported that two operators from Oxford Aviation, its owner, Persaud, and a pilot he brought from the U.S., presented their airside passes to the airport security, while stating that they were going to place some items on the aircraft and later took off without warning.

The planes stopped in Grenada before leaving for Anguilla. However, the aircraft were unable to leave Anguilla as Guyana had raised an alarm over the airspace regulation infractions here. Stabroek News reported at the time that the planes were bound for the United States, where Persaud owns and operates a private charter service. One plane was subsequently allowed to leave.

NBC 4 New York, in another report on the crash yesterday, reported that Persaud owned two flight schools in Danbury and Waterbury, according to his estranged wife. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and other family members.

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