Almost two weeks after an illegal airstrip was discovered at Santa Fe North Rupununi, Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo); the Police on Sunday evening intercepted an illegal aircraft minutes after it landed.
Prior to the discovery of the aircraft, members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) have been monitoring events after a foreign aircraft was seen frequenting the Santa Fe area.
However, on Sunday evening, Police ranks went to the area and conducted a search during which over a dozen 10-gallon jars were found hidden in the bushes.
The party also observed that a long strip of land measuring one mile in length and about 50 feet in width was cleared. In addition, as the team was leaving the area, it observed an aircraft circling and immediately went back to the location.
There, they saw three men running from the landed aircraft. While the men escaped, the aircraft was secured by the Police.
Sometime later, F Division (Interior locations) Commander, Ravindradat Budhram arrived at the location and a search was conducted on the aircraft. The search unearthed a quantity of dry ration, medical supplies, gents clothing and footwear, two hand-held radios, flashlights, cellular phones and an identification card amongst other items.
The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority has been notified and a team was deployed to the area to conduct further investigations. Just two weeks ago, an illegal airstrip was unearthed about five kilometres West of Santa Fe, Rupununi, Region Nine, by members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) who were patrolling the area.
The ranks were conducting a reconnaissance mission when they stumbled upon the seeming newly built airstrip. Following a closer inspection of the perimeter of the airstrip, several dug out trenches were found. They were covered with black plastic and dried branches.
Upon removing the plastic and branches, several items were found concealed in the holes including a chainsaw and fuel drums. In addition, a ¼ drum of aviation fuel was also found at the site.
At least 12 abandoned camps were also found in close proximity of the airstrip. These camps were reportedly used by farmers over a period of time.
In September 2016, a Joint Services patrol discovered an illegal aircraft hidden just off of the Yupukari Airstrip, Rupununi with United States registration N-767-Z.
Subsequently, a team of investigators from the GDF, GPF, Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit and the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority was deployed from Georgetown to the area to conduct investigations and were able to determine that the registration number was bogus.
Moreover, investigators had discovered during interviews with nearby residents that the aircraft had been sighted circling the area on numerous occasions in the past.
Additionally, a number of residents shared information they deemed as “suspicious activity”, including the presence of motorcycles or ATVs frequenting the area at midnight.
It was reported that a leak was discovered in the fuel tank of the aircraft. This, investigators believe, may have caused the aircraft to land in Guyana.
However, it has been reported that one of the local law enforcement agencies was aware of the aircraft at least three weeks before the disclosure was made. It was reported that the security officials were monitoring the aircraft to see if anyone would return to salvage it.
Meanwhile, President David Granger has established a one-man Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to probe the discovery of the illegal aircraft and appointed retired Brigadier Edward Collins to investigate, examine, advice and report on all aspects under which the foreign aircraft had entered the country.
During the CoI, public meetings were held in several villages including Katoka, Kaicumbay, Yupukari and other villages. The CoI proved that the aircraft entered Guyana illegally.
The illegal twin-engine Cessna aircraft was subsequently flown from Yupukari to Lethem initially, before it was flown to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport where it remains to date. (Bhisham Mohamed)