Deadly GDF helicopter crash: “There is no Venezuelan flag on our border” – Army Head
Alleged claims by President Nicolas Maduro that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) team in the deadly helicopter crash was going to the border to remove a Venezuelan flag has been dispelled by Chief of Staff, Brigadier Omar Khan.
At a press conference on Saturday, the GDF Head reiterated that the team’s mission was solely to visit ranks stationed at Guyana’s border with Venezuela.
The servicemen were heading to visit Guyanese troops near when the Bell-412 helicopter went down, around 30 miles east of Arau.
“We had a command visit to the border. A command visit means we are going to visit our soldiers. The mission continues. There is no Venezuelan flag on our border. None,” Brigadier Khan told reporters.
The Chief of Staff added that he engaged with the Toshao of Arau last week when information surfaced of a Venezuelan flag at Guyana’s border. However, these reports were false at that time and communicated to the community.
In a time where social media is flooded with speculations, he advised that the GDF will only release information once verified.
“There’s so many things going on social media and I know we have to be timely in how we respond. Verifying who said what and what they said will give us some time before we can respond,” the Chief of Staff said.
Amid heightened aggression from Venezuela, ranks of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) were posted along the country’s border and are tasked with reporting any act of aggression.
Of the seven servicemen who went missing when the helicopter crashed in Region Seven, only two men survived.
Lieutenant Andio Crawford and Corporal Dwayne Jackson were extracted from the crash site on Friday after two days and multiple thwarted attempts by the search and rescue team to rescue them.
In the presence of President Irfaan Ali and other senior officials at the Eugene F Correia International Airport on Friday, 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.
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.
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 only able to reach the site on Thursday at about 14:30h. (G12)