A solemn atmosphere enveloped the Eugene F. Correia Airport at Ogle this afternoon as the survivors of the GDF helicopter crash and the bodies of the service men who died were brought out from the crash site for the long goodbye.
President Irfaan Ali and Prime Minister Mark Phillips led the team of well-wishers and mourners that included family members.
The two survivors, Lt. Andio Crawford and Corporal Dwayne Jackson were the first two to arrive at the airport just after 4pm. Some family members held on to each other as the two survivors were removed from the aircraft by medical teams.
The President and his team spoke briefly with the survivors, offering a speedy recovery, before they were taken to the hospital.
The two spent two nights in the rugged jungle terrain after surviving the crash that claimed the lives of five of their colleagues.
The crash took place on Wednesday morning, and the crash site was spotted one day later on Thursday, when the two survivors signaled to the search teams flying above.
Special Forces ranks and a medical team were rappelled into the crash area. Once there, they offered emergency assistance to the survivors, while confirming the deaths of the five others.
Bad weather in the area aborted the attempts yesterday to extract the survivors and the bodies of the fallen five. The Medical teams and the Special Forces remained with the survivors and the bodies last evening.
This morning, the survivors were first extracted, followed by the five fallen servicemen.
At the Airport this afternoon, the Chaplain of the Guyana Defence Force said he offered words of comfort and a prayer to the survivors and their families and the families of the fallen.
It was jus after 5:30 this evening, as the sun went down over the Ogle Airport, that the Military Skyvan carrying the bodies of the five fallen servicemen arrived.
Military pallbearers and a military party were on hand.
The caskets were first draped with the Golden Arrowhead before being removed one by one from the Skyvan. The screams of a grief stricken relative broke the silence of the moment, and others cried quietly. Tears flowed as the caskets were removed and the names of each of the fallen was announced.
The five fallen servicemen are retired Brigadier Gary Beaton, Colonel Michael Shahoud, Lt. Colonel Sean Welcome, Lt. Colonel Michael Charles and Staff Sergeant Jason Khan.
The flag draped caskets were slowly placed into five hearses and slowly driven to the Memorial Gardens Funeral Home.
A grief stricken President Irfaan Ali spoke with the family members and greeted the search and rescue teams before departing.
Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Omar Khan, said a full investigation will be conducted into the tragic crash. A cause is still to be determined.
The seven servicemen were on a mission to the bordering locations to gave assurances to those military personnel serving at the locations, in wake of the ongoing threats against Guyana by Venezuela.
They were on their way from Arau to Eteringbang when tragedy struck, claiming the lives of five of the servicemen.