Saturday, October 01, 2011

Philippine Air Force: Mechanical glitch blamed in chopper crash

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Updated) -- The Philippine Air Force denied that an enemy fire caused one of its helicopters to crash in Patikul town in Sulu province on Saturday morning.

Air Force spokesman Lietenant Colonel Miguel Ernesto Okol said the crash, which killed an officer and two enlisted personnel and injured another, was caused by mechanical problems.

"No, it was not shot down," Okol said.

Philippine National Police spokesman Agrimero Cruz identified the fatalities as Omar Antepuesto, the main pilot, and crews S/Sgt. Maximo Orquina and A1C Rannie Solis.

Injured was 1Lt. Junius Zulueta.

The remains of the three victims were airlifted to Zamboanga City.

The remains arrived at the Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) in the city around 4 p.m. aboard a UH-1H Huey helicopter and were then taken to a local funeral parlor.

Two UH-1H helicopters with tail numbers 606 and 794 were on their second sortie of the resupply mission from Camp General Teodulfo Baustista in Jolo, the capital town of Sulu, to Camp Balabad in Patikul town, when the accident happened.

The two helicopters' first sortie of the resupply mission was recorded at 6:56 a.m. Saturday.

The four victims were on board Huey helicopter with tail number 606 that “lost engine power prior to landing” around 8:20 a.m. Saturday in the vicinity of Camp Balabad.

Though the pilots initiated emergency landing after it lost engine power before landing the helicopter, they “hit hard on the ground and rolled down a hill”, said Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, Western Mindanao Command information officer.

Camp Bautista houses the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Brigade while Camp Balabad is the home of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-6 headquarters.

Marine soldiers who were stationed in the area at the time of the crash were able to secure the site immediately, Okol said.

Patikul, a known bailiwick of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, has been the site of numerous clashes between government forces and the terrorists.

Early last month, a Huey made an emergency landing in Guimba, Nueva Ecija due to a "minor maintenance problem." The pilots and crew of the aircraft were fortunately unharmed.

The Air Force has about 40 Hueys in its inventory, serving as the main combat utility helicopter of the Air Force.

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