Chemtrad plane down

All aboard feared Dead

Tuguegarao, Cagayan - A CHEMTRAD AVIATION Britten-Norman BN2 plane, known in the aviation industry as the “Islander”, vanished on radar and crashed in bad weather Thursday somewhere between the villages of Flores and Reina Mercedes, in Maconacon town in Isabela.

The nine seater aircraft with registry RP-C764, left Tuguegarao airport at 8:55 in the morning Thursday with five passengers and two pilots onboard and was bound to land in a private airport some 30 minutes later in in the remote municipality of Maconacon, Isabela Province in the island of luzon on the same day.

Fatalities were identified as Captain Tomas Z. Yañez, Capt. Reiner Ruiz, Senior Police Officer 2 Rolly Castaños, Celestino Salacup, Abelardo Baggay, Joel Basilio, and James Bakilan.

Search and Rescue operations have been mounted by civilian and military agencies for a twin-engine Britten-Norman plane since Thursday but the Philippine Airforce choppers and the PNP plane were recalled and was forced to stop the aerial rescue for the missing plane due to bad weather affecting the area.

Engaged in the search are the military forces based in Cagayan Valley, including the Army’s 5th Infantry Division, the Air Force Tactical Operations Center in Cauayan, Isabela, other Air Force units in the region, the Coast Guard and the local police forces.

Director General Ruben Ciron of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said that the Caap Operations Center called up the neighboring airports of Cauayan, Isabela; San Fernando, La Union; Clark Field in Pampanga; Subic in Zambales; and the Laoag Airport in Ilocos Norte, to look for the missing plane but was told that RP-C764 did not land there. Tuguegarao Airport reported that the weather was good when the missing plane took off.

Aviation authorities theorized that since the eastern part of Luzon has been experiencing cloudy weather during the last three days, it was possible that the cloud ceiling suddenly closed in on RP-C764 while en route, forcing it to fly low looking for a break in the clouds and may not have been able to hurdle the mountainous terrain along the area and possibly smashed into one of several peaks.

The islander plane has been located sitting on the east side on a remote Sierra Madre mountain range, near Maconacon, said Chief Supt. Roberto Damian, the regional police chief. Rescue efforts was made more difficult due to absence of access road to the area or foot path leading to the crash site and that rescuers have to endure dense trees and vegetation climbing the mountain to make its way to the wreckage. Access to the forested area is very restrictive further delaying retrieval operations. Rescuers is expected to arrive on the crash site Sunday morning.

Chemtrad Aviation is an air taxi company based in Pasay City and regularly offers inter-island charter services particularly between Tuguegarao, Laoag and Batanes.

In December 12, 2003, another Islander plane of the same company crashed into a hill covered by dense trees about two miles from the airstrip while negotiating a climb for Palanan, Isabela killing 3 persons on board who were PAF reservist. Air Force spokesman, said the remains of Capt. Lamberto Melo, the plane's pilot, Capt. Marvin Regis, co-pilot; and Mario Valdez, crew chief, remained lodged inside the wreckage reportedly perched at the slope of a hill in barangay Dinapnat, Divilacan town, also in Isabela. Causes of the accident was partly due to pilot error miscalculating the terrain when it attempted to fly in bad weather when clouds already covered much of its way.

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