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Floating debris found, likely from missing medic chopper

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Thursday said it found floating debris that could be from the medical evacuation helicopter that went missing in Palawan.

This developed as the remains of all four passengers and crew of the Cessna 340 plane that crashed near Mayon Volcano two weeks ago have already been brought down from the crash site, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said Thursday.

CAAP spokesman Eric Apolonio also said the agency would have to consider the recent aircraft incidents as “accidents,” as all the aircraft involved were fully compliant with the agency’s rules and regulations.

This included the downed Cessna plane in Albay, the still-missing Cessna plane in Isabela, and the medical helicopter that went missing on Wednesday morning in Palawan.

Coast Guard District Palawan spokesperson Gretch Mary Acuario said officers on board the ship BRP Malabrigo found the debris off Lumbucan Island in Barangay Mangsee in Balabac.

Reports said the debris looked like a gas tank and reportedly had “R404A” and “pentafluoroethane” markings on it. However, the PCG is still verifying if they are really part of the medevac chopper.

The Philippine Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Center under the CAAP said the medevac flight came from Mangsee Island in the far southwest portion of Balabac, Palawan.

The helicopter was on its way to the Southern Palawan Provincial Hospital in Brooke’s Point when it was reported missing. On board were the pilot, a nurse, a female patient, and her two companions.

The helicopter was determined to be an Alouette model with registry number N45VX, operated by the Philippine Adventist Medical Aviation Services based in Brooke’s Point.

It took off at 7:30 a.m. from Brooke’s Point to pick up the patient and was expected to arrive at 10:30 a.m. at the hospital.

In a statement, the CAAP said a permit addressed to Philippine Adventist Medical Aviation Services President Captain Dwayne Harris has been issued by the Flight Standards Inspectorate Service (FSIS), Flight Operations Department (FOD), and Air Traffic Service (ATS), approving its humanitarian flight operations from February 27 to August 27, 2023.

The CAAP said they are conducting search and rescue operations continuously to locate the missing helicopter.

Philippine Air Force helicopters and PCG boats were deployed along the plane’s flight route, according to CAAP Area Center 4—Puerto Princesa International Airport Manager Mohammad Naga Rascal.

In a separate public briefing, CAAP’s Apolonio said that authorities were already processing the remains of the victims—Cessna pilot Captain Rufino James Crisostomo Jr., co-pilot Captain Joel Martin, and Australian consultants Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam.

Apolonio said Camalig, Albay Mayor Carlos Baldo Jr. reported the bodies had been brought down from the Mayon base camp yesterday morning, about a week after the Cessna’s wreck – and the fatalities—was spotted.

Rescuers had said inclement weather and the difficult terrain, plus the threat of a possible Mayor eruption, made their retrieval and descent operation difficult.

The Cessna wreck was spotted about halfway up the 8,000-foot-tall active volcano. It was inaccessible by helicopter, as the area was in a no-fly zone owing to Mayon’s Alert Level 2 status.


Credit belongs to : www.manilastandard.net

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