The fate of the two men onboard the Trans Guyana Airways (TGA) plane which crashed on Saturday remained unclear last night with army Special Forces expected to reach the wreckage this morning.
The wreckage of the plane, a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan piloted by Canadian national Blake Slater with cargo handler Dwayne Jacobs on board, was spotted by personnel onboard a GDF helicopter yesterday.
“The densely forested terrain has made access to the site a lengthy process,” an official statement yesterday from the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said. GCAA Director-General Zulficar Mohamed told reporters at a briefing that the wreckage was spotted at 12:35 yesterday by personnel onboard
the GDF-2 helicopter. “However the site proved difficult for anybody to be inserted into it,” he said while adding that GDF personnel are moving towards the location 4.3 km away from the Olive Creek, Region Seven airstrip from which the aircraft took off before crashing. They were expected to arrive by nightfall but given the weather and terrain this morning is more likely.
“The GDF Special Force Officers which include medical personnel were inserted at a location approximately one mile from the wreckage and are making their way to provide assistance to the persons on board and to carry out an extraction,” the GCAA said.
“Additional personnel including another medical doctor and GCAA investigators will be transported to the site first flight tomorrow morning (today). The site will be secured by GDF to maintain its integrity and to ensure the evidence is not contaminated,” it added. Yesterday, two ranks were first inserted a mile away from the actual site to clear a spot for the helicopter to land following which a search party was expected to go on to the crash site.
“The team may not get in there until nightfall” Mohamed said. “At this time we cannot tell you the status of the passengers.” Minister of Transport Robeson Benn at the briefing, said that they do not want to write off anything until the Special Forces medic is on the ground.
Mohamed said that there was no sign of a fire. “The wings were off” he said adding that the fuselage seemed to be somewhat intact but they do not know what had transpired there. The minister stated that the first objective once the soldiers have reached the site is to extract the personnel before it is secured for GCAA inspectors. The security of the site is essential to ensure that it is not contaminated and it is left in its current state, he said.
In recounting the search, Senior Air Traffic Controller Rickford Samaroo said that witnesses were interviewed and as the searches progressed, they eliminated the uncertainties as far as practicable. They narrowed the possible crash site to within two and a half miles from take-off making the search area very tight, he said. Searches resumed early yesterday morning with several flights by fixed wing aircraft and two GDF and Air Services Limited helicopters.
Mohamed said that the area that they had identified as the probable crash site was “pretty close” to where the aircraft was found. Samaroo added that over 11 hours of flight were recorded before the crash site was identified.
TGA spokesman Kit Nascimento had told Stabroek News on Saturday that the plane, which bears registration number 8R-GHS, went down shortly after take-off from the small Olive Creek airstrip in the mountainous, jungle area. The plane was being used to shuttle mining supplies to Imbaimadai. Nascimento said that at 10:55 am, shortly after the plane’s take-off from the airstrip, a distress call was received from the pilot. He said that the airline immediately launched a full search and rescue operation using a plane that was in the area at the time.
The GCAA was also notified and activated its Rescue Coordination Centre and additional planes, two helicopters and army personnel were deployed to the area.