Ka Ray, thank you for everything. may your soul rest in peace...
Ex-Phivolcs chief, 8 others killed in helicopter crash
Posted 01:28pm (Mla time) April 28, 2005
Inquirer News Service, INQ7.net, GMA7, Agence France-Presse
(3rd UPDATE) NINE people, including the former head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), were killed when a Philippine Air Force (PAF) helicopter they were riding crashed on the mountains of Nueva Ecija province, reports culled by INQ7.net said Thursday.
The remains of seven of the nine bodies that were recovered from the crash site arrived at the Villamor Air Base Thursday afternoon, GMA Network radio station dzBB said. They have not been identified.
The report also said search and retrieval operations were stopped due to bad weather.
Former Phivolcs head Raymundo Punongbayan was with four Phivolcs staff, two pilots, and two crewmembers, when their US-made Bell UH-1H helicopter crashed near Gabaldon town, Nueva Ecija, Renato Solidum Jr., Phivolcs director, said in separate interviews on radio and Agence France-Presse.
Punongbayan's son, Eric, told INQ7.net that the family was in the process of making burial arrangements.
Solidum and a Phivolcs statement identified the Phivolcs staff as Dr. Jessie Daligdig, 44; Dindo Javier, 41; Orlando Abengoza, 49; and Dr. Norman Tungol, 40, chief of the Phivolc's geology and geophysics research and development division.
A dzBB report identified the two pilots as First Lieutenants Reynaldo Gerrodias and Jason Salazar and the two crewmembers as Staff Sergeants Edgar Ramolete and Wilbert Tacatac.
Senator Richard Gordon said in a live dzBB interview that he was supposed to be with the Philvolcs team on that mission.
Gordon, chairman of the Filipino Red Cross chapter, said on local television that Punongbayan had inspected the resettlement area by land last week.
"He said he identified potential areas of danger (of further landslides) and he wanted to confirm it by air. So I went to Secretary (Avelino) Cruz of the Department of National Defense to borrow a helicopter," Gordon added.
Meanwhile, Major Augusto dela Peña of the Philippine Air Force Public Information Office told the same radio station that all Air Force helicopters had been grounded.
"I received a message from the Office of Civil Defense that unfortunately, all the passengers died," said Solidum in an earlier interview with Agence France-Presse.
"The aircraft exploded but we don't know if it was upon impact or while in mid-air," said Senior Inspector Pablo Cruz, police chief of Gabaldon, who was among the first at the crash scene.
The aircraft was en route to the mountainous town of Dingalan in Aurora province to determine whether the area was suitable for building new houses following deadly landslides last year.
"They were on a mission to conduct [an] ocular inspection," said Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Restituto Padilla.
Dela Peña said the helicopter took off from Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija at around 8:41 a.m.
Earlier on Thursday, Gabaldon Mayor Dominador Mandia, in a telephone interview with Inquirer News Service, said a councilor who was coordinating a project near the crash site reported the incident to him at about 11 a.m.
With reports from Joel Francis Guinto, Klara Añonuevo, Paul Xymon Garcia, Jum Balea, INQ7.net; Anselmo Roque and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer News Service; GMA7; and Agence France-Presse