Sokol Helicopter Crashes In Marawi

8 August 2014

By Roel Pareño and Alexis Romero

Two persons were hurt after a Sokol helicopter carrying an Army general and providing escort to Cabinet officials crashed in Marawi City yesterday.

Army division spokesman Capt. Franco Suelto said the pilot managed to maneuver the ill-fated helicopter and saved 11 passengers, including Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, chief of the 4th Army Division; 4th Infantry Division Inspector-General Col. Alexander Macario, five staff members of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and four crew members, including the two pilots.

Injured were Staff Sergeant Darius Valdez, crew of the Sokol 921 and Santiago Savedra, a bystander who was hit by debris during the crash.

The helicopter crashed at 2:23 p.m. shortly after takeoff from the 103rd Infantry Brigade headquarters in Marawi City.

“The Sokol helicopter barely took off when the incident happened. It was fortunate that the pilot managed to maneuver and made a forced landing,” Suelto said.

The helicopter, a backup for another Sokol carrying Gazmin, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, reportedly lost control after it was buffeted by heavy winds.

“As a result of the crash, one crew from the chopper was wounded in action while another civilian was injured,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

The helicopters were en route to Cagayan de Oro City.

The other Sokol carrying the Cabinet officials arrived safely at the Langundingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang has ordered Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado to determine the cause of the accident.

Visaya said he was in Marawi City to accompany Gazmin, Roxas and Petilla as they try to solve the power problems in the area.

He said the helicopter appeared to have difficulty flying around two to three minutes after it took off, at about 15 meters above ground.

“The helicopter turned left and then crashed. It did not explode so no one among us died,” Visaya said.
Suelto added the helicopter that crashed was among the eight Sokol delivered in 2012 to the Philippine Air Force. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Edith Regalado

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