Presidential Chopper Down

Rescue Expedited


Baguio – A Presidential Bell 412 helicopter RP 1946, carrying an advance team of government officials preparing for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s trip to Ifugao Today, crashed Tuesday, authorities said.

Senior Supt. Joseph Adnol, Ifugao police director, said the chopper was last seen flying over Mt. Pulag and believed to have been lost along the boundary of Nueva Vizcaya and Ifugao. The Bell 412 presidential helicopter left Loakan Airport in Baguio City at 4:20 p.m. and was expected to reach Banaue, Ifugao, in less than an hour.

Those on board were Undersecretary Marilou Frostrom of the Presidential Management Staff, Undersecretary Jose Capadocia Jr. of the Office of the Press Secretary, Assistant Director Perlita Bandayanon of the PMS’ office of regional concerns, Brigadier General Carlos Clet, Demy Reno from the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and the two pilots Major Sacatano and Captain Alegata.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said President Arroyo was "visibly shaken" upon learning of the missing chopper. He said they would review whether the President's inspection of a road project would push through on Wednesday.

He also said that at about 5 p.m., Malacañang’s Media Accreditation Office (MARO) received a call from Capadocia informing them that they are looking for a place to land because they are experiencing zero visibility in the area.

Remonde later said they have received initial reports that the missing chopper had been located around 9:30pm through a signal from an emergency beacon recorded by an Air Force Fokker 27 plane which was dispatched to picked up signal from the emergency locator transmitter of the chopper Tuesday night.

Air Force spokesman Maj. Gerardo Zamudio Jr. said bad weather in Ifugao province may have caused the presidential helicopter to crash. The air force has been mobilized for possible night search-and-rescue operations.

"Medyo madilim at may kaunting problema sa weather conditions. Yan ang report na natanggap natin [It was dark and there were problems with weather conditions. Those were the reports we got]," Zamudio said in an interview on dzRH radio, referring to weather conditions in Ifugao.

Zamudio said that the search and rescue helicopters cannot conduct night operations because of bad weather conditions reported in the area.

Senior Superintendent Pedro Danguilan Jr., Nueva Vizcaya police director, said the search could take one or two days if made by land since Sitio Kamandag in Asipulo was a remote village. Government troops could travel to Kamandag from the Ifugao police headquarters in the capital town of Lagawe via Ambaguio town in Nueva Vizcaya.

But from Ambaguio, the troops must walk to reach Kamandag, he said.

Danguilan also said they received reports that villagers in Ambaguio saw “something that looked like a helicopter” in the forests near the Nueva Vizcaya-Ifugao border on Tuesday night.

“At around 9:30 p.m., we received this report that villagers found something.

Our units are set to go to the area via Bayombong and Ambaguio because this is the shortest access route to the site,” he said.

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