[UPDATED] Guyana mourns helicopter crash victims

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Staff Sgt Jason Khan –

GUYANA President Dr Irfaan Ali led an outpouring of grief among his countrymen on Thursday as news arrived of the deaths of five servicemen of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) after an army helicopter crash on Wednesday. Reports were that two men survived.

Ali spoke as if addressing the five dead soldiers.

He named the deceased as Brig Gary Beaton, project engineer; Col Michael Shahoud, Commander First Infantry Battalion; Lt Col Michael Charles, pilot; Lt Col Sean Welcome, Commanding Officer of the Reserve Battalion, and Staff Sgt Jason Khan of the 31 Special Forces Squadron.

Reports named the two survivors as Lt Andio Crawford and Cpl Dwayne Jackson.

Lt Col Sean Welcome –

Ali said, “My heart pains and drowns in sorrow at the tragic loss of some of our finest men in uniform. The scale of this loss to the families, our country, the GDF and to me personally is immeasurable.”

“My trusted friends and comrades, my brothers how could this be?

“You loved your country above and beyond everything. Country and service were all that matter to you. I observe with so much honour, the pride you took in putting on your uniform. We became a family bonded in service and brotherhood. I have experienced the love of all of you and it is ripping me apart.”

Ali vowed to embrace the dead officers’ families as his own, and to represent the deceased in service to country and family.

“On kneeling knees, I lift all of you and your families up in prayers and faith.

Col Michael Shahoud –

“I call upon all of us to hold these men, their families, the GDF and our country in our prayers. Rest in Peace my trusted friends. So many plans we had together. How could this be?”

“You were among the finest we will ever have. I wish I was waiting for all of you to come home. With all my love until we meet again.”

Guyanese news source Demerera Waves on Thursday reported GDF chief of staff Brig Omar Khan on Wednesday saying the helicopter was on a command mission “to visit our troops on the western border.”

Brig Gary Beaton –

He said the aircraft had landed at Bullet Creek to refuel but soon after take-off all communication contact was lost. The helicopter had triggered an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal.

Khan said, “On receipt of that ELT signal, it activated our analysis We attempted to make contact with aircraft and no communication was obtained.”

However, the helicopter was spotted Thursday morning and a rescue team was being inserted into the mountainous and forested area, reported Demerera Waves, quoting the GDF.

“The crash site where a Guyana Defence Force Bell 412 helicopter went down yesterday, has been positively identified and the aircraft spotted,” the GDF said.

“Search and rescue teams have also reported positive signs of life on the scene. Troops are being rappelled to the exact site location.”

“These officers have served and given excellent service in the defence of our country and will be duly recognised,” the GDF said.

Lt Col Michael Charles –

The news report said the helicopter had gone down in bad weather, in a location in Essequibo about 30 miles from the Venezuelan border.

Despite border tensions between Venezuela and Guyana, Khan downplayed any speculation at a news conference on Wednesday in Guyana.

“We do not have any information suggesting that there was any flight by a Venezuelan aircraft in that area.”