Officials: Australian passengers, Filipino crew of crashed plane all dead

BenarNews staff
Officials: Australian passengers, Filipino crew of crashed plane all dead Rescuers stand beside a helicopter as they prepare their search for passengers and crew of a crashed Cessna 340A aircraft at Camalig town, Albay province, southeast of Manila, Feb. 21, 2023.
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines via AP

A search-and-rescue team has found the bodies of four people who were killed when their light airplane crashed on the slopes of the Mayon Volcano in the eastern Philippines, officials said Thursday.

The team reached the crash site high up on the volcano where they found the bodies of the two Filipinos and the two Australians close to the wreckage of their twin propellor Cessna 340A, Carlos Irwin Baldo, the mayor of Camalig town in Albay province and leader of the search effort, told the DZBB radio station in Manila.

“We have found the four people who were on board the plane that crashed near the crater of Mayon Volcano. Now, we have shifted our operations to retrieval,” Baldo said.

But he added it would take time to bring the bodies down from the 2,462-meter (8,077-foot) tall Mayon, one of the Southeast Asian nation’s most beautiful and active volcanoes.

The four were identified as Capt. Rufino James Crisostomo Jr., the plane’s pilot, crewman Joel Martin, and Australians Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam. All four were employees of the Energy Development Corp. (EDC), a large geothermal power company based in Manila.

“The bodies were found outside the airplane,” Baldo said.

“The challenge for us is how to bring down the cadavers,” he added, noting the crash site was located at an elevation of 3,500 to 4,000 feet on the west side slope of the cone-shaped volcano.

Baldo said teams had earlier tried to reach the crash site but were bogged down by the rough terrain.

Earlier in the week, two Philippine Army soldiers, who were involved in search-and-rescue efforts around the crashed plane, were shot dead by suspected communist guerrillas as they shopped at a local market for provisions for their unit, officials said.

The Cessna plane went missing shortly after takeoff from the Bicol International Airport in Albay on Saturday, and the wreckage from the crash was later spotted from the air. It remained unclear what caused the plane to crash or what it was doing in a no-fly zone above the volcano.

There is a permanent 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) danger zone around Mayon, which last erupted in 2018 and displaced thousands of people. Search-and-rescue teams have been warned of sudden steam-driven explosions, or ash and mudflows in case of heavy rains.

Molten lava flows down the slopes of the Mayon Volcano during its mild eruption as seen from Legazpi city, Albay province, southeast of Manila, Philippines, Jan. 30, 2018. [Bogie Calupitan/AP Photo]

The two Australians were working as technical consultants for EDC.

Santhanam had been in the country since March 2022 and was working as lead advisor of health, safety and environment. Chipperfield was an expert in subsurface geothermal resources as well as drilling.

Richard Tantoco, president and chief operating officer of EDC, confirmed the deaths of the company’s four employees.

“We mourn the confirmed passing of our dear colleagues, pilot Captain Rufino James Crisostomo Jr., Joel G. Martin, Simon Chipperfield, and Karthi Santhanam, who were all aboard the Aircraft RPC-2080 that was reported missing early Saturday morning shortly after taking off from the Bicol International Airport,” he said in a statement.

“Our heartfelt sympathies go to their families and friends during this difficult time.”

Meanwhile, the pilot’s family thanked all the people involved in the mission to find their loved one.

“His life ended carrying out what he loved the most, his passion for flying. We ask for prayers for the eternal repose of his soul and strength for his family and loved ones,” the Crisostomo family said.

The crash was the second one involving a Cessna in the last few weeks in the Philippines.

Last month, a Cessna carrying six people took off for a planned 30-minute flight from the Cauayan Airport in Isabela province, but never arrived at its destination. To date, all the passengers and the plane wreckage have not been found yet.

Jojo Riñoza and Jeoffrey Maitem contributed to this report from Manila and Davao City, southern Philippines.


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