Search recommences for missing soldiers and GDF chopper; Additional resources being used

Search recommences for missing soldiers and GDF chopper; Additional resources being used

The Guyana Defence Force recommenced search operations early this morning to locate the seven missing military personnel and the Force’s Bell 412 helicopter.

Additional resources are being used today in the search operations, which were halted late yesterday as a result of bad weather and nightfall.

The GDF remains hopeful that its service members are alive and well.

The Force identified those missing as pilots, Lt. Col. Mike Charles and Lt. Andio Crawford, Commander of the First Infantry Battalion, Col. Michael Shahoud, retired Brigadier Gary Beaton, Lt. Col. Sean Welcome, Sergeant Jason Khan and Cpl. Dwayne Jackson.

The GDF has been in contact with the families of the missing men and intends to remain in contact with them as the search operations continue today.

Contact with the military aircraft bearing registration 8R-AYA, was lost at around 11:40 on Wednesday morning as it traversed the skies over Arau, about 30 miles east of Guyana’s border with neighbouring Venezuela.

Chief of Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Omar Khan, said once repeated efforts to contact the crew of the aircraft failed, search operations were launched.

He said he would not want to speculate on the cause for the aircraft losing contact, but noted that “whenever an EMT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) signal is emitted from any aircraft, it signals an issue. An ELT signal is put out based on a crash landing, hard impact and it can be triggered manually”.

There was bad weather in the area at the time that the ELT signal was transmitted. Heavy rainfall and cloudy skies blanketed most of the border locations yesterday.

The Chief of Staff told reporters that ground troops as well as aerial surveillance will continue to be used during the search operations. He also indicated that he has been in contact with Guyana’s military partners internationally, and those partners will also be providing additional support to aid the search efforts today.

The aircraft and those on board were on a military operation to visit military bases close to the border with Venezuela, in wake of the neighbouring country’s ongoing threats against Guyana, and recent declarations by the Venezuelan President laying further claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region to make it a Venezuelan state.

Brigadier Khan said all of the members of the military who were on the aircraft are seasoned and experienced military men. He said he remains hopeful that the ongoing search efforts will be successful.

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