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Philippine Police Chief Survives Helicopter Crash

Jojo Rinoza
Manila
2020-03-05
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First responders and utility repairmen are seen at the site of the crash of a Bell 429 helicopter, in which the Philippine national police chief and seven other people were injured, in Laguna province south of Manila, March 5, 2020.
First responders and utility repairmen are seen at the site of the crash of a Bell 429 helicopter, in which the Philippine national police chief and seven other people were injured, in Laguna province south of Manila, March 5, 2020.
Stringer/BenarNews

Updated at 12:29 p.m. ET on 2020-03-05

The head of the Philippine national police force, three of his generals and four crewmembers were injured – including two seriously – in a helicopter crash outside Manila on Thursday, authorities said.

National police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa survived the crash and five others were said to be out of danger. But two senior police officers, Maj. Gen. Jovic Ramos and Maj. Gen. Mariel Magaway, were being treated at a local hospital after being seriously injured, officials said.

Gamboa’s spokesman, Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, was also among the eight who were injured when their Bell 429 helicopter clipped a power line and crashed on Thursday morning shortly after lifting off from a police camp in suburban Laguna province, just south of Manila, the national police said in a report.

“To our countrymen, I am speaking how to show you that I am okay,” Gamboa said in a brief message from his hospital bed and aired by DZMM radio.

He said he was only slightly injured, and was expecting to be back to work on Monday.

"Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. Pls continue to pray for full recovery of my passengers and crew," the police chief said via Twitter.

The injured passengers and crew were rushed to a hospital where all of them, except for Ramos, were proclaimed to be out of danger, officials said.

Ramos remained “in critical condition” and Magaway was “already out of danger,” although still in intensive care hours after the crash, said Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, deputy chief of operations.

Archie Gamboa, who took over as the Phillipine police chief in January 2020, salutes during a flag-raising ceremony at Camp Crane in Quezon city, Philippines, Oct. 14, 2019. [Philippine National Police via AP]
Archie Gamboa, who took over as the Phillipine police chief in January 2020, salutes during a flag-raising ceremony at Camp Crane in Quezon city, Philippines, Oct. 14, 2019. [Philippine National Police via AP]

A video shot from a mobile phone by the police showed that the chopper kicked up a thick cloud of dust upon takeoff. Within a few minutes, a loud crashing sound was heard, and the helicopter was seen catching fire as it lay on its side. Emergency responders arrived within minutes and quickly put out the flames, while pulling the men from the wreckage.

Eleazar said all the survivors were later transferred to a Manila hospital, where they were still being monitored as of late Thursday.

“There was zero visibility, the pilot encountered problems, then the chopper got in contact with the wire. That’s why it crashed,” Eleazar said.

“I am asking for prayers that the passengers would be safe. The PNP [Philippine National Police] chief is safe and we wish the same for his fellow passengers,” he added.

Gamboa was the police spokesman in the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte in the 1990s. Gamboa was appointed in January to replace Gen. Oscar Albayalde, who stepped down a month before his retirement due to a scandal linking him to alleged irregularities in the Duterte administration deadly war on illegal drugs.

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