See full statement from the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority:
The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority is saddened by the sudden death of Brigadier (ret’d) Gary Beaton, Colonel Michael Shahoud, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Charles, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Welcome, and Staff Sergeant Jason Khan who tragically lost their lives while conducting an important military operation of national interest. The GCAA extends sincere condolences to the families and friends of these officers who were truly exemplary patriots as demonstrated by their unwavering commitment in the execution of their duties.
The GCAA joins the rest of the nation in praying for the speedy recovery of Lieutenant Andio Crawford and Corporal Dwayne Jackson, the two survivors of the accident.
Lieutenant Colonel Charles or Captain Charles (as he is fondly known) was an aviator extraordinaire with over 40 years of experience in aviation. He was trained at the Flight Safety Academy in Vero Beach Florida, United States. On January 21, 1992 he was issued with a Helicopter Commercial Pilot Licence from the Guyana Civil Aviation Department and on May 17, 2017 he received his Helicopter Air Transport Pilot Licence from the GCAA. He was trained and rated to operate both single and multi-engine rotorcraft. He is type-rated on the Bell 206, Bell 412 and Rotoway Exec 162F helicopters. Over his aviation career he has amassed more than 5,000 flying hours. Up until his death, he was considered the most experienced local helicopter pilot.
Captain Charles was a self-less aviator, he conducted numerous emergency medical evacuations both night and day throughout the hinterland regions of Guyana. He will be famously remembered for his words which now resonate deep in our hearts:
“for me the most interesting mission is when I have to rescue somebody…when I see that I have helped to save a life that is what really matters, not the VIPs I have flown around…once I know that a person I rescued is okay, I could sleep with some degree of joy…especially if it is a child, man I’ll go through hell, brimstone or high water, anything to help… I usually get into a different mode when it comes to search and rescue”
His dedication and unwavering commitment to his job is exemplary. The GCAA can attest to his meticulous approach to safety. Lt. Col. Michael Charles will be deeply missed by the aviation fraternity, the staff of the Authority, especially those at the Control Towers, and the Safety Directorate.
He was multi-talented and was known for his exceptional photography and videography skills. Through the lens of his camera, many people in Guyana and around world got to appreciate the beauty and majestic wonders of Guyana’s hinterland regions and our rich biodiversity. In October 2011, Captain Charles was awarded the Medal of Service for his contribution to aviation, tourism, and cinematography in Guyana.
The entire aviation industry and Guyana is truly grateful for Lt. Col. Charles’ stellar contribution to national development in the aviation and tourism sectors, and indeed, his wider contribution to the Guyana’s development generally. Though he is no longer with us, the indelible impression of his friendship, leadership and benevolence will influence our attitude towards the work ahead of us.
We thank his family for sharing him with us and express our deepest condolences to them during this difficult period of grief.