Dec 12, 2008 News
– boat captain being questioned
The army has recovered the body of Corporal Wesley Hopkinson, one of the two GDF ranks who went missing following Monday’s mishap in the Cuyuni River.
An army release said that Hopkinson’s body was recovered at around 0:30hrs yesterday, some 15 miles from the area where the accident occurred.
Army officials also revealed that the tragedy occurred after a civilian vessel collided with the GDF boat in which Hopkinson and five other ranks were travelling.
It is alleged that, after the collision, the occupants of the civilian vessel headed towards the Venezuelan border.
Relatives of Hopkinson said that army officials have informed them that the boat captain is being questioned.
Kaieteur News understands that it does not appear that Hopkinson and his colleagues were on patrol when the tragedy occurred.
Hopkinson’s remains were brought to Georgetown, at around 17:00 hrs, triggering pandemonium at the Lyken Funeral Parlour, where relatives and villagers had waited for several hours to see the corpse.
A deep gash on the 27-year-old soldier’s head was the only visible injury.
He was dressed in a black three-quarter pants and a green vest.
The other army rank, Private Colwyn Harris, had still not been located at press time yesterday.
According to the army release, investigations have, so far, revealed that six soldiers were aboard a GDF vessel which collided with a civilian vessel in the Cuyuni River at about 20:30 hours on Monday.
It said that preliminary reports indicate that four of the soldiers were thrown into the river by the force of the collision, and two of them made it back to the safety of the boat, while Hopkinson and Harris did not.
Their colleagues immediately set about scouring the area in an effort to locate them.
“Search parties which included help from the civilian population in the area were launched, resulting in the recovery of Hopkinson’s body some 15 miles from the area where the accident occurred.”
“Chief-of-Staff, Commodore Gary Best, today visited the bereaved family and relatives of Corporal Hopkinson, whose body was flown into Georgetown and was positively identified by his father, Mr. Allan Hopkinson.
“The Commodore updated the relatives, including Hopkinson’s father and mother and other concerned family members, regarding the current outcome of the investigation, and promised a full report at its conclusion. Commodore Best also offered Mr. Hopkinson the opportunity to travel into the area to have a first-hand look at where his son met his demise.”
“The Chief-of-Staff reiterated the GDF’s commitment to working closely with the Hopkinson family to provide the necessary assistance for the interment of his body.”
It added that Commodore Best also visited with the family of the still-missing Private Colwin Harris. He updated them of the incident and assured them that the search for Harris is continuing, even as a Board of Inquiry is conducting inquiries into the incident.
But Hopkinson’s relatives say that several unanswered questions remain about the circumstances surrounding his demise.
“We are still not satisfied…we still have doubts as to what took place, but his (Commodore Best’s) explanations have helped,” a relative told Kaieteur News.
“From what we understand, there were no lights on the (army) boat, so we really want to know how they searched, and what they searched with.”
According to the relative, the army officials informed them that, after the collision, the civilian vessel continued on its way and ‘parked’ in Venezuelan waters.
Another relative said that they were told that the captain is Guyanese.
The relative expressed the hope that the captain is “subjected to the laws of Guyana,” especially since he reportedly failed to render aid to the soldiers.
The relative also said that the army officials indicated that Hopkinson and his colleagues were not on patrol when the tragedy occurred.
However, Commodore Best reassured them that an investigation is underway to unearth all details of the mishap.
From as early as 11:00 hrs yesterday, several of Hopkinson’s relatives and friends gathered outside the Lyken Funeral Parlour on learning that his remains would be brought there.
When the body finally arrived and was taken into the funeral parlour, Hopkinson’s wailing relatives demanded to see his corpse.
Eventually, army and police ranks permitted them to see the dead soldier’s remains.
Alan Hopkinson, the dead soldier’s father, told Kaieteur News that an army official contacted the family, at around 10:00 hrs yesterday, to inform them that his son’s body had been found and that his remains would be brought to the city.
He said that another official informed the family that Commodore Best would be visiting them.
Hopkinson joined the army some ten years ago, and was seconded to the Eteringbang base in October.
He is survived by his reputed wife, who is pregnant, and the couple’s two-year-old daughter.
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