2 injured in Marawi chopper crash

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Updated) – Two people were injured when an army helicopter supposed to provide security for Local Government secretary Mar Roxas and Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin crashed Thursday in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, a military official said.

The Philippine Army’s (PA) 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs officer-in-charge Captain Franco Suelto did not identify those who were injured except in saying one of them was a helicopter crew — an Air Force enlisted man.

Major Christian Uy, the PA’s 4th Infantry Division spokesman, said the other injured was a bystander who was hit by debris when the helicopter went down.

Suelto said the Sokol 921 helicopter crashed at an open field on Camp Ranao around 2:23 p.m. Thursday shortly after it took off en route to Cagayan de Oro City where Roxas and Gazmin had a scheduled visit.

He said initial findings showed that the helicopter crashed few moments after it took off due to strong winds.

Suelto said that Army’s 4ID commander Brigadier General Ricardo Visaya, who was among the 11 people aboard the helicopter, was unscathed.

However, the pilot of the crashed helicopter sustained a leg injury, Uy said.

Aside from Roxas and Gazmin, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, who was on a trip to assess the power situation in Mindanao, was among the passengers of the helicopters that took off.

Uy said Roxas, Gazmin, and Petilla were not among the 11 people aboard the ill-fated helicopter.

Roxas, in his Twitter account, said he and Gazmin were safe.

Uy said the Sokol helicopter carrying Gazmin and Roxas was first to take off followed by the second helicopter with Visaya on board.

“General Visaya has no injury and all the other aboard the helicopter except for the pilot were unscathed,” he said.

“Bumagsak sa harap namin (the chopper crashed a few meters ahead of us),” said Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).

Hataman said in a telephone interview that there were five helicopters ferrying officials to Marawi for the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Lasureco (Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative) that is addressing the problems on the board and management of the electric cooperative.

The committee is composed of representatives of the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of National Defense (DND) and DILG.

Tropical Depression Caloy
A Sokol helicopter crashes two minutes after it hovers to leave Kampo Ranao military camp in Marawi City bound for Laguindingan Airport at around 2:30 p.m. on August 7. Major Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division based in Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro, and Col. Alexander Macario, inspector general of 4th ID are among the 11 passengers of the chopper. They are unhurt. (Richel V. Umel)

He said the first helicopter that took off from the camp belonged to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, which was ferrying Secretary Luwalhati Antonino of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) to Iligan City.

Hataman said the next chopper, another Sokol, was ferrying Gazmin, Roxas and Petilla to Cagayan de Oro, followed by the helicopter that would ferry Gen. Visaya, which crashed just outside the perimeter fence of the camp.

Visaya’s air transport, Hataman said, took off about 10 to 15 minutes after the helicopter of the Cabinet secretaries took off.

He said the Cabinet secretaries returned to Marawi upon learning their back-up chopper crashed.

The Poland-made Sokol helicopters are the latest acquisition of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.

In his recent State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III said that in the ongoing modernization of the AFP, the country has acquired brand new assets, including eight Sokol Combat Utility Helicopters, three AgustaWestland-109 helicopters, and the first landing craft utility ship built right here in the country: the BRP Tagbanua, four refurbished UH-1 helicopters and two navy cutters have also arrived.

Thursday’s crash leaves the AFP with only seven operational Sokol helicopters. (FG/COA of Mindanews)

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