Deadly GDF helicopter crash: 2 survivors, bodies of 5 servicemen flown to city
…more information on accident soon – Chief of Staff
The families of the two survivors who were onboard Guyana Defence Force Bell 412 helicopter, which crashed and killed five servicemen, are now breathing a sigh of relief as their loved ones have been safely extracted and transported to the city.
Lieutenant Andio Crawford and Corporal Dwayne Jackson were finally extracted from the crash site after two days and multiple thwarted attempts by the search and rescue team to rescue them. Adverse weather conditions in the mountains of Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) where the crashed occurred on Wednesday, posed a multitude of challenges for the survivors to be rescued.
However, on Friday, after the two survivors were extracted from the crash site, they were flown to the Blakeslater Aerodrome, Region Seven, where they were further examined by medical personnel.
With tears of joy, Crawford and Jackson were welcomed at the Eugene F Correia International Airport, Ogle, at about 16:00h by their families. Commander-in-Chief, President Dr Irfaan Ali along with Prime Minister, Retired Brigadier Mark Phillips and Guyana Defence Force Chief of Staff, Brigadier Omar Khan were also on site to receive the servicemen. After a brief interaction with their families and the Head of State, the two were transported via ambulance to a city hospital.
In the sunset of Friday, the atmosphere at Eugene F Correia International Airport, Ogle, was a solemn one as the bodies of the five servicemen who perished in the accident arrived.
Draped with The Golden Arrowhead, the caskets carrying Brigadier (ret’d) Gary Beaton, Colonel Michael Shahoud, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Welcome, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles, and Staff Sergeant Jason Khan, were taken from a GDF Skyvan by their comrades and transported to awaiting hearses. Their families along with President Ali broke down in tears as the bodies were being transported by military pallbearers. Each of their names was announced as their bodies were removed from the Skyvan. Prime Minister Phillips along with Brigadier Omar Khan stood by the President’s side. Brigadier Beaton was the husband of Member of Parliament and former Public Service Minister, Dr Jennifer Westford.
The GDF’s chaplain was also at the airport.
Meanwhile, Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Omar Khan, who spoke with the media briefly on Friday, said that the results from the investigation into the crash will be known soon. He pointed out that he cannot comment on the probe but noted that the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority is also involved in the investigation.
“We will have some word on the investigation soon,” Brigadier Khan said.
At about 11:20h on Wednesday, an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signal was received, but because of rough terrain and adverse weather, the search-and-rescue team was able to reach the site only on Thursday at about 14:30h.
On Thursday, medical personnel and several ranks reached the crash site and stayed with Lieutenant Crawford and Corporal Jackson until their extraction on Friday.
The servicemen were on their way to Eteringbang to meet with ranks on Guyana’s borders following threats made against Guyana by Venezuela.
Brigadier Beaton was the project engineer; Colonel Shahoud, an attorney-at-law, was Commander of the 1st Infantry Battalion; Lt Col Charles was the pilot; Lieutenant Colonel Welcome was Commanding Officer of the Reserve Battalion; and Staff Sergeant Khan was from the 31 Special Forces Squadron.