Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier Omar Khan, has said there is currently no information to suggest Venezuelan aircraft were involved in the disappearance of one of its helicopters.
“We do not have any information suggesting that there was any flight by a Venezuelan aircraft in that area,” Khan said during a media conference that he called on Wednesday evening to update citizens on the search and rescue effort.
Khan said the helicopter’s last location was over Guyanese territory, about 30 miles away from the border with Venezuela.
Seven men were on the helicopter when it went missing.
Khan released their identities as Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles, Retired Brigadier Gary Beaton, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Welcome, Lieutenant Andio Michael Crawford, Sergeant Jason Khan, Corporal Dwayne Jackson and Colonel Michael Shahoud.
The aircraft, which was a Bell 412 Helicopter with the registration number 8R-AYA, was reported missing around 11:20 am.
It had taken off from Base Camp Ayanganna for Arau, on the western border with Venezuela, around 9:20 am. Its Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signal was picked up approximately 30 miles east of Arau.
Charles, a veteran airman with over 40 years of experience, was piloting the ten-year-old helicopter as it traversed the mountainous and heavily forested area in rainy/overcast weather.
Khan told reporters that the ELT could have been triggered either by a crash landing or by the officers on board.
Khan said he is optimistic about the situation ending positively since “the officers on this aircraft are among our very best.”
He noted that the search and rescue mission is utilising all of the available assets to search the area, which is sparsely habited. Additional assistance is being sought from Guyana’s regional allies.
Pressed by journalists about why a flight would have been conducted in bad weather, Khan said he trusted the decision of his officers as they would have taken all possibilities into consideration when planning the expedition.