President Granger visits injured GDF ranks

– Investigation launched into cause of explosion; fireworks display cancelled

Georgetown, Guyana (February 22, 2020): President David Granger, this afternoon, expressed sympathy to the ranks of the Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) 21 Artillery Company who were injured while preparing for tonight’s scheduled firework display in celebration of Guyana’s 50th Republic Anniversary.

Several ranks of the 21 Artillery Company were preparing for the firework display when there was spontaneous combustion at approximately 13:30hours aback the Force’s Coast Guard location at Ruimveldt. That combustion resulted in a number of pyrotechnics being destroyed and rendered un-useable.

All of the ranks involved have been accounted for, but eight were taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) where they are being treated for burns and trauma.

The injured ranks have been identified as Seon Rose, Terrence Neils, Gordon Cornette, Isiah Gordon, Trevon Joseph, Victor Low, Attorney Cort and Delroy Baird.

President Granger, upon learning of the incident visited both the scene and the GPHC where he spoke with the injured ranks, their relatives and doctors.

“These are not untrained [persons]; these are expert people who have been doing this over and over again,” the President said, noting that some of the ranks had travelled to Barbados to conduct fireworks display there for that country’s 50th Independence celebrations.

President Granger said both the GDF and the Guyana Fire Service will conduct investigations into the incident.

“…The Chief Fire Officer and the Chief of Staff are both going to conduct an investigation to find out what happened. As far as we are concerned, we always apply the best safety measures to ensure Soldiers’ lives are not in jeopardy and we are trying to get to the bottom of it,” President Granger assured both the media and relatives of the injured.

“The Defence Board and the Defence Force will ensure that every possible measure [is in place] for the recovery of the injured soldiers. I have spoken with the families. It is something which is completely unexpected, particularly because of the level of training and the soldiers involved,” the President said.

The Commander-in-Chief said at the time of the explosion, the ammunition was being loaded onto barges while noting that “something obviously went wrong and it might have triggered a chain effect. It is not as if there was any form of carelessness. We are doing our best for the soldiers now at the hospital.”

“We will do everything possible to ensure all the injured soldiers return to full health,” the President said while describing the incident as “unfortunate”.

Chief of Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Patrick West explained that the ranks of 21 Artillery conducted rehearsals last night at 22:00h “and during that time we had no challenges. It was well done and we were satisfied at the end of the rehearsal, last evening, that we could have done the display today.”

“As they [soldiers] were preparing for the display today, they encountered some challenges and there was some form of spontaneous combustion which caused the resulting injuries. I have ordered a BoI [Board of Inquiry] to get to the bottom of it and to determine what measures we can take to ensure there is no reoccurrence,” Brigadier West said while thanking both the Fire Service and the Emergency Medical Services for their prompt response.

Brigadier West said too that all soldiers who were present and working with the 21Artillery will also receive medical care in order to ensure they are not suffering from trauma.

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