Rescuers find debris feared from helicopter missing in western Philippines

BenarNews staff
Davao, Philippines
Rescuers find debris feared from helicopter missing in western Philippines Members of a search and rescue team examine a rainbow-patterned pillow that may have been on board a missing helicopter and was recovered from waters off Balabac, Philippines, March 2, 2023.
Philippine Coast Guard handout

A medical helicopter carrying five people that went missing is feared crashed in waters off Palawan island in the western Philippines, coast guard officials said Thursday.

A search and rescue team said members found debris that appeared to be from the chopper, which went missing a day earlier after losing contact with ground control while on a medical mission.

“The search and rescue (SAR) team has retrieved a dilapidated rainbow-colored pillow … around 12:10 p.m. today, March 2, 2023. The said pillow was owned by the patient on board Yellow Bee, as confirmed by her uncle,” a Philippine Coast Guard communique said.

“Earlier, the SAR team also recovered a floating object that looked like a gas tank which was suspected to be debris from the missing helicopter,” it said.

Commonly known as Yellow Bee, the helicopter was carrying a pilot, nurse and three others. It last made contact over waters east of the town of Balabac.

The Philippine Adventist Medical Aviation Services (PAMAS), which owns the helicopter, reported the incident, leading to the launch of the rescue mission in the Balabac region.

“Our team so far found nothing in the waters of Balabac,” said Jerry Alili, disaster risk officer of Palawan.

The Philippine Coast Guard, meanwhile, said it dispatched its multi-role response ship BRP Malabrigo to assist in the search. In addition, the military’s Western Command in Palawan said that it had dispatched a helicopter and a ship to the scene.

Regional military chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos said all resources at his disposal would be used to “contribute in helping the victims and their families and find evidence that will piece together what happened to them and the PAMAS helicopter.”

The incident was the third in the last few weeks in the Philippines, an archipelago where many remote areas are reached by small commercial airplanes and helicopters.

Last month, four people including two Australians were killed when their light twin propeller Cessna 340A airplane crashed on the slopes of the Mayon Volcano in the eastern Philippines.

In January, two air force pilots died when their plane crashed during a training flight. One day earlier, a Cessna light plane carrying six people took off for a planned 30-minute flight from the Cauayan Airport in Isabela province, but never arrived at its destination. The plane and passengers have not been found.

The worst aviation accident in recent Philippine history took place on April 19, 2000, when a Boeing 737-2H4 of Air Philippines crashed on Samal island near the southern city of Davao. The plane went down as it was approaching the airport, killing all 124 passengers and seven crew members.  

Jeoffrey Maitem and Dennis Jay Santos in Davao City, southern Philippines, contributed to this report.


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