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PNP, CAAP probe chopper crash

PHILIPPINE National Police deputy chief for operations Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar leads an inspection of the helicopter crash site in San Pedro City, Laguna. (Mark Balmores)

PHILIPPINE National Police deputy chief for operations Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar leads an inspection of the helicopter crash site in San Pedro City, Laguna. (Mark Balmores)

The Philippine National Police and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines are investigating the helicopter crash which endangered the lives of PNP chief Police Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa and seven other policemen in San Pedro City, Laguna last Thursday.

Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP deputy chief for operations and concurrent head of the Special Investigation Task Group Bell 429, said their investigation will focus on tweaking the Standard Operating Procedures of the PNP in using air assets.

“This is probably the first time that the PNP will be conducting a chopper or aircraft crash investigation. We really need the help of concerned agencies even though we have seasoned investigators coming from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and PNP-Aviation Security Group since it’s a different field,” said Eleazar following an inspection of the crash site in Barangay San Antonio. “Kailangan ma-review at ma-improve ang SOP para bumalik ang tiwala ng ating senior officers and other members of the PNP who will utilize our air assets,” he emphasized.

Probers from the CAAP and PNP Region 4-A (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon area) started an initial investigation after the crash.

Eleazar said the results of the initial investigation will be forwarded to the SITG, which will be used as a basis in their further probe.

In the coming days, he said, they will invite resource persons including the survivors of the crash, first responders, and witnesses to determine what really transpired that fateful day.

According to initial investigation, the chopper crashed seconds after its takeoff due to poor visibility. The gust of wind produced by the fast spinning rotor blades covered the area with thick dust and debris which may have affected the vision of the pilots. The chopper then hit some electrical wires upon takeoff and crashed.

Aboard the chopper were Gamboa, Police Major Gen. Mariel Magaway, Directorate for Intelligence chief; Police Major Gen. Jose Ma. Victor Ramos, Directorate for Comptrollership chief; Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesman; Police Capt. Kevin Gayrama, aide de camp of Gamboa; pilot Police Lt. Col. Ruel Salazar; co-pilot Police Lt. Col. Rico Macawili; and chopper crew Police Senior Master Sgt. Louie Estona.

Police Major Gen. Benigno Durana, chief of the Directorate for Police Community Relations and acting PNP spokesman, said Magaway was responding to treatment at the Intensive Care Unit of Unihealth Southwoods Hospital and Medical Center in Laguna.

Doctors have stopped blood transfusion on Ramos although he remains in critical condition and unconscious. He is confined at the Asian Medical Center in Muntinlupa City.

Durana said Gamboa, who was confined at St. Luke’s Hospital in Taguig City may be released last night. Gamboa is likely to stay at the PNP White House in Camp Crame, Quezon City and be guarded by staff of the PNP General Hospital in Camp Crame.

Gayrama was scheduled for release yesterday afternoon. Durana said that Banac may be released today.

There is no date yet for the release of the chopper staff. (Martin Sadongdong)