Search resumes for missing GDF ranks

Army Chief Brigadier Omar Khan

At first light today, search and rescue teams resumed their operation in search of the seven servicemen who went missing when contact was lost with a Guyana Defence Force helicopter yesterday morning.

Yesterday, search and rescue teams, alongside Guyana’s Special Forces, were deployed into the deep jungle between Arau and Eteringbang, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni).

However, bad weather impacted their mission to locate seven GDF ranks along with a Bell-412 helicopter that disappeared during a border operation in the Ekereku River area of Region Seven.

The GDF helicopter, commanded by military aviators Lieutenant Colonel (Reserve) Mike Charles and Lieutenant Colonel Andio Michael Crawford, transmitted an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signal at about 11:20h on Wednesday. Onboard were other distinguished officers, including retired Brigadier Gary Beaton; Colonel Michael Shahoud; Lt. Colonel Sean Welcome; Sergeant Jason Khan, and Corporal Dwayne Jackson.

Having departed from Base Camp Ayanganna, the helicopter transmitted an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signal at 11:20h around 30 miles east of Arau. Despite challenging weather conditions, search and rescue teams tirelessly worked to locate the ranks, yet their efforts proved unsuccessful.

At a press conference at Base Camp Ayanganna on yesterday evening, Chief of Staff of the Defence Force, Brigadier Omar Khan, announced the suspension of search efforts late afternoon, with plans to resume early today.

“I am confident that what we would have gained today [Wednesday] on the terrain and other data, it will be a better day tomorrow,” expressed the Chief of Staff.

Brigadier Khan explained that the search was temporarily halted due to adverse weather conditions, but would resume as the weather improved. He expressed optimism about the experienced personnel on board, and suggested the ELT signal indicated a possible crash landing.

“On receipt of that ELT signal, we activated our analysis. We attempted to make contact with the aircraft, and no communication was obtained. We immediately activated our search-and-rescue process, and this involved coordination across our own services and with the Private Sector,” explained Brigadier Khan.

Amid heightened tensions between Guyana and Venezuela, and with the Venezuelan President’s recent actions declaring Essequibo a new Venezuelan state, disappearance of the Guyana Defence Force helicopter raises concerns. However, GDF Chief of Staff Brigadier Khan has said, “I am not in receipt of any of information that would indicate such a scenario.”

He said the crew and military personnel on board the helicopter are some of the more experienced members of the Guyana Defence Force. As such, he would remain optimistic that they would be found alive and well.

Khan emphasised the GDF’s commitment to communicating with the families, and vowed to intensify search efforts as weather conditions improve.