Total Wreck for Bell 412

Wreckage found in Ifugao Forest with no survivors

[Update: 11:02pm]

Baguio – The ill fated RP 1946 Presidential Bell 412 helicopter that crashed Tuesday was found early morning Wednesday in a heavily forested area in Sitio Mangingihe in Barangay Eheb in Tinoc, Ifugao.

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 Ronaldo Sacatani and Captain Alvin Alegata.

Mayor Lopez Pugong of Tinoc town in Ifugao, said that all eight bodies have been recovered from the crash site and would be brought to the district hospital in Tinoc for identification. Rescuers arrived on the site around 2pm.

A local policeman who was part of the rescue group which located the missing aircraft said two of the bodies were found in pieces.

“May nakita kami na buo na isa po. Piloto yata yun [We saw a body that was still whole. We think it was the pilot’s]," said SPO2 Samuel Guyon of Tinoc Police in an interview over dzBB , a Manila based radio station.

Asked on how they were able to determine that one of the bodies belongs to the pilot, Guyon said: “Yung uniporme ho [Through his uniform]."

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said President Arroyo was "visibly shaken" upon learning of the missing chopper. He said the eight were on an inspection trip near the world renowned Banawe rice terraces and served as an advance party of the Malacanang contingent that President Arroyo will visit on Wednesday when the Bell helicopter they were riding lost radio contact.

The President's road inspection and other engagements in Ifugao was eventually cancelled to make way for a thorough inspection of the surviving PAF helicopters. The two remaining aircraft at The Mansion House in Baguio City were inspected as standard operating procedures.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Wednesday already blamed bad weather as cause for the accident, saying that sudden weather changes have been known to affect aircraft in the mountain ranges.

"The area is known for having good weather now and then turning bad all of a sudden," Col. Raul Dimatatac, PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Operations, said in a press conference.

He said aerial searches which include 2 CH-46 Sea Knight of the US Air Force(USAF), were called off Wednesday afternoon after inclement weather prevented other five PAF Huey helicopters from dropping rescuers in the the area.

The Bell 412 presidential chopper is equipped with a global positioning system, navigational and weather instruments, an onboard radar, and an emergency locator transmitter, Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres, Jr. said, adding that it is rated for day and night instrument flight rating.

The chopper was purchased brand new from Bell Helicopter Textron of Fort Worth, Texas, U.S., and was delivered in 1996. Its latest Certificate of Airworthiness (COA) was issued recently on February 10 and is set to expire on February 10, 2010.

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