The ranks of the 31Special Forces team that successfully recovered the remains of the Aliya Bulkan, who died tragically at the Kaieteur Falls a few weeks ago, have been awarded special letters of commendation and other rewards.
Honouring their efforts the Chief-of-staff Commodore Gary Best on Tuesday told the ranks that theirs “was a difficult and dangerous mission.” He added that they came close to losing one of their own yet they were heroic and pulled it off.
He told the ranks, “We (the GDF) are grateful to God for your spared lives…you deserve high praise for your bravery and commitment to your task.”
On Saturday November 7, Aliya Bulkan, a scholarly 23-year-old woman, plunged from the top of Kaieteur Falls to her death. Five days later her body was recovered by a search team that included several soldiers.
Following the recovery, her relatives showered their highest praises for the ranks of the 31 Special Forces Squadron who risked their lives to retrieve the body from the rugged terrain of Kaieteur gorge.
Ronald Bulkan described the efforts of the Commanding Officer of the troops, Captain Sheldon Howell, Lieutenant Jermaine Whyte and the other ranks as beyond professionalism and said the family is eternally grateful.
The GDF team endured five days of traversing huge boulders, secondary jungle and unforgiving rapids to successfully complete the unprecedented task of retrieving the body.
Aliya Bulkan plunged to her death while on an organised tour of the world famous waterfalls.
The Bulkan family during, a GDF hosted press conference at Camp Ayanganna, noted that from the time the family solicited the assistance of the army, the response was unwavering.
“At the initial contact (with the army), the response was unequivocal in the affirmative. Thereafter it was very evident that the mobilisation was immediate; there was no delay in the mobilisation,” Ronald Bulkan told the media.
Recounting the events that led to the recovery of the body, Ronald Bulkan explained that upon learning about the tragedy, some family members and two policemen journeyed to the area by aircraft to conduct an initial investigation.
After speaking with the tour guide of the party, it was established that she had disappeared over the falls.
Arrangements were made with some of the guides from the Kaieteur National Park to go down into the gorge to commence a search operation.
They returned to the city the next day and contacted Chief-of-Staff Commodore Gary Best for assistance to locate and recover the body.
Two hours later the family was assured by the chief of staff that things were in train to have troops deployed to the area to join in the recovery effort.
The following day the father of the missing woman and her uncle were back in the Kaieteur Falls area and subsequently met with Captain Howell who was assigned to lead the search and recovery team.
The dead woman’s uncle, Howard, who was on location throughout the operation, said that while the family was eager to recover Aliya’s body, the members were very naïve when they initially spoke to the wardens who assured them that they were going to try to retrieve the body.
“This Special Forces 31 is a special bunch of men and women and we couldn’t have done this on our own; there was no way we could have done this. My family would be eternally grateful for what they have done here,” Howard Bulkan had said to the Chief of Staff.
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