4 PAF airmen killed in Basilan chopper crash

Published September 16, 2020, 4:17 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Nonoy Lacson

Four personnel of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) were confirmed to have been killed when a military helicopter crashed in Lantawan, Basilan on Wednesday afternoon due to bad weather.

(Photos courtesy of Lantawan Municipal Police Station / MANILA BULLETIN)

A military source confirmed to the Manila Bulletin that a Sikorsky rescue helicopter (S-76A) with tail number 202 from the 505th Search and Rescue “Angels” Unit crashed in Barangay Upper Manggas at around 2 p.m.

The Isabela city disaster risk reduction and management office, meanwhile, said the crash occurred at 12:45 p.m.

A report from the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) identified the fatalities as Major Jessie Miller, First Lieutenant Mack-ar Ferrer, Staff Sergeant Miguel Bañas Jr., and Airman Second Class Benedicto Leal Jr.

In a statement, Lieutenant Colonel Aristedes Galang, PAF spokesperson, said the fatalitie were bound for Jolo, Sulu after receiving a medical evacuation (medevac) mission. The team took off at 12:33 p.m.

Shortly thereafter, the helicopter they were riding in crashed.

Photos from the Isabela CDRRMO showed authorities conducting follow-up operations to retrieve the remains of the slain airmen.

“All (four) passengers including the pilot were found dead in the wreckage. Investigation is still ongoing,” the Isabela PDRRMO said.

In an update on Wednesday night, Galang said all the remains of the fatalities have been retrieved and ferried to Zamboanga City.

Lieutenant General Allen Paredes, PAF Commanding General, has ordered a prompt maintenance inspection of all Sikorsky planes in their inventory.

“A team will also be sent to the area to conduct further investigation of the mishap,” Galang said.

It was the second chopper crash involving a PAF aircraft in two months.

Last July 23, a Huey (UH-1D) helicopter with tailgate number 8308 crash landed shortly after taking off for a night vision goggles (NVG) proficiency training in the vicinity of the Tactical Operations Group (TOG-2) area at the Cauayan Air Station in Isabela.

Four airmen were also killed in the incident while another one was injured. 

The PAF has not yet given an update as to the cause of the Cauayan, Isabela accident.