The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority and the Guyana Police Force will lead the investigations into the crash of the Guyana Defence Force Bell-412 helicopter which claimed the lives of five Servicemen on Wednesday.
At a Saturday morning press conference at the GDF headquarters at Ayanganna, Chief of Staff, Brigadier Omar Khan explained that a cause of the crash is still to be determined. He said he did not want to speculate on the reason behind the tragic incident, but would prefer to have the full investigation completed.
“The phase that we are now going into, is the investigation which is outside the remit of the Guyana Defence Force. We will now have the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority along with the Guyana Police Force conducting the investigations, because we are part of this operation, we will have to provide information to those investigations and the process has already started and we have handed over a number of items to the Civil Aviation Authority and the Police have also commenced their investigations”, Brigadier Khan revealed.
The helicopter crash claimed the lives of Brigadier Gary Beaton, Colonel Michael Shahoud, Lt. Colonel Shawn Welcome, Lt. Colonel Michael Charles, and Staff Sergeant Jason Khan. Two other servicemen, Lieutenant Andio Crawford and Corporal Dwayne Jackson, survived the crash.
The two survivors as well as the bodies of the five who died, were extracted from the crash site on Friday, two days after the incident. The two survivors remain hospitalised with no life threatening injuries, according to Force Medical Officer, Lt. Colonel Dr. Nigel Langhorne. He explained that they were medically examined at the crash site and at a temporary base that was used near the crash site before they were brought out from the area.
Chief of Staff Brigadier, Omar Khan said the two survivors will be fully debriefed by the investigators and will be expected to provide all the information needed about the incident to assist with the probe. He also indicated that the Guyana Defence Force has already established a Board of Inquiry to conduct its own internal investigations.
It was explained by Commander of the Air Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Mohinder Ramjag, that flight data and voice recorder has been recovered and has already been handed over to the investigating team.
“The aircraft was equipped with cockpit voice data recorder that will capture all the voice and communication and flight data details”, he said.
Lt. Colonel Ramjag explained to reporters that when contact was lost with the helicopter on Wednesday morning, it was on its way to Arau from Olive Creek, where it had refueled.
He said it was on a different flight path than the one that had been established for it to take, adding that there might be a number of reasons for a pilot to deviate from a planned flight path, including bad weather.
Ramjag said once the helicopter’s Electronic Locator Transmitter sent out an alert and contact could not be made with the crew, the search and rescue operations were launched.
The operations could not get close to the crash site on that first day because of the bad weather in the area. However, on Thursday, the rescuers were able to spot the crash site and the waving survivors.
Once special teams were able to get to them, those teams that included rescuers and medical personnel, spent Thursday night with them at the crash site before they were all extracted on Friday.
Chief of Staff, Brigadier Khan said the flight was on a mission to visit the border locations. Questioned about the fuel stop at Olive Creek and the origin of the fuel supplied there, it was explained that the fuel is provided by a private supplier. News Source understands that the fuel is bought from bordering locations with Venezuela.
The GDF said the fuel is usually tested for its quality. It is not suspected that there was an issue with the fuel, but the investigations are expected to cover all angles.
The Chief of Staff said it is a tragedy to lose some of the finest men to serve the military, but noted that the work of the GDF must continue in protecting the country and its people.
While the two survivors recover in hospital, and the probe into the fatal accident gets underway, the GDF will begin preparations with the relatives of the fallen servicemen, to lay them to rest.