By Charlie Lagasca
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines – Efforts to locate a light plane which went missing while on its way to Isabela’s coastal town of Maconacon have been fruitless for the past 10 days.
However, the search teams, which now include civilian volunteers, are expected to continue their search and recovery operation today in the northern Sierra Madre mountain range in Isabela after negative findings on the Baggao coast.
Senior Superintendent Jimmy Rivera, Isabela police director, said aerial and ground search over the weekend in Valley Cove in Baggao, Cagayan yielded nothing.
The chartered twin-engine plane, owned by Chemtrad Aviation Corp., with seven people on board, was believed to have crashed or made a forced landing in Maconacon.
“The possibility that the plane crashed or forcibly landed along the Pacific coast might be remote since such an aircraft has parts that are capable of floating that aerial teams could see,” Rivera said.
Over the weekend, mountaineers also joined in the intensified ground search for the decades-old Islander plane (with tail number RPC 764), which failed to reach Maconacon, its usual 45-minute route, after taking off from the Tuguegarao City airport at around 8:55 a.m. last April 2.
On board the aircraft were Capt. Tomas Yañez, his co-pilot Capt. Ranier Ruiz, and five passengers – Maconacon councilor Abelardo Baggay; retiring SPO2 Rolly Castaños, also of Maconacon; barangay chairman Joel Basilio of Sapinit, Divilacan town; James Bakilan of the Divilacan municipal government; and Celestino Salacup, driver of Maconacon Mayor Francisco Talosig.
Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca said Salacup, who had been taking care of his wife recuperating from surgery at a Tuguegarao hospital, was to attend the elementary graduation of his daughter whom he had failed to see for the past two months.
Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian, Cagayan Valley police director, said poor weather conditions and heavy vegetation prevented them from reaching the plane’s possible crash site through an aerial operation, prompting them to instead undertake a ground search involving local residents and civilian volunteers.