THE launch of a massive, independent ground search to find missing Air Services Limited (ASL) pilot Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Persaud, and baggage loader David Bisnauth was announced yesterday.Persaud, 27, and Bisnauth, 51, were operating a flight between Mahdia and Karisparu, Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) when the Cessna Britten Norman Islander aircraft suddenly lost all communication with Control Tower.
The announcement was made by Persaud’s father, Mr Cecil Persaud, and his father-in-law, Mr Frank Singh at the latter’s Rainforest Tours’ office on Avenue of the Republic, in Georgetown.
The search is projected to cost some $6M and last about a month. The new search party will depart the city tomorrow.
Persaud and Bisnauth have been missing for over a month now, and earlier search efforts by the relevant agencies all proved futile. “Air Services (ASL), the military, and other officials have done what they can, and have reached the max,” Singh, also veteran tourism operator in Guyana, told reporters yesterday.
Eleven persons in all, including Nicholas’ dad and father-in-law, make up the team, the formation of which included help from other pilots, including Roraima Airways’ Captain Gerald Gouveia. “They have proven very resourceful in giving us information; what to do on the ground…,” Singh said. “We have a pattern in which we will conduct the search; we will do it into four grids; four parts. The first part we are going to do is ‘Taffy’,” he added.
Gouveia has provided aerial shots he took of the area in question, which are what the team would be working with. Singh said Gouveia will also be on hand to provide aircraft assistance should this become necessary.
According to him, several sightings of the plane have been reported by miners and others who were in the vicinity of where the plane disappeared. These individuals have also managed to identify the colour of the aircraft.
As Singh reasoned, “If someone can identify the colour of the aircraft, it means it was low. So, a low impact is a 65-70 per cent possibility they are alive. Some of the areas are mining areas, but people haven’t gone on the ridge of the mountain; they are more in the basin. The disappearance of the aircraft was during the Christmas-time, and at that time, all of the dredges are closed for the Season. So basically, no one was there to see, except caretakers and camp security. Those are the persons that we discussed with.”
Continuing with his appraisal of the situation, Mr. Singh said, “It was spotted again, turning back, going over the mountain; that was the last official sighting of the aircraft. He (the pilot) was trying to get back to the closest airstrip, which is called ‘Taffy’.
“We calculate possible engine failure; we don’t know. The weather was also very bad. We are going from ‘Taffy’ airstrip to the mountain. These are high areas. If this doesn’t work, we will go to the White Water/Black Water area. If this doesn’t work, we will go back into the Basin.
“We are doing it in sections, because we are doing a thorough ground search. The elevation in these areas is about 1200 to 3000 feet high, so we have to take our time and search.”
Singh said the public is largely providing support on this initiative, and many companies are donating food, equipment and other needed items.
Meanwhile, the pilot’s father is thankful to friends, family, and all who are supportive of this search. “In my mind, he is still alive. He is a strong fighter, and I believe he will survive in a situation like this. I’ve heard of people who survived longer than this,” he said.
(By Telesha Ramnarine)