The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Thursday paid tribute to the four airmen who died in the tragic helicopter crash in Lantawan, Basilan.
The remains of Major Jessie Miller, First Lieutenant Mack-ar Ferrer, Staff Sergeant Miguel Bañas Jr., and Airman Second Class Benedicto Leal Jr., of the 505th Search and Rescue (Angels) Group, were given arrival honors at the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City before they were transported to their home provinces.
Lt. Col. Aristedes Galang, PAF spokesman, said unit commanders and senior officers gave their final salute to the airmen and extended their deepest sympathies to the bereaved families who were present.
Ferrer and Bañas’ cadavers were flown to the Fernando Air Base in Lipa, Batangas while Miller’s was brought to the Clark Air Base in Pampanga.
The remains of Leal were transported to his family in Zamboanga City.
Galang said Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, PAF commanding general, has assured that he will extend all the necessary benefits and assistance to the families left behind by the airmen.
Last Wednesday, the rescue team flew to Jolo, Sulu aboard a Sikorsky (S-76A) after receiving a medical evacuation (medevac) mission.
The helicopter crashed in a rubber plantation in Lantawan allegedly due to bad weather, killing the four PAF personnel.
Galang said a team was deployed by PAF to Basilan to conduct further investigation as to the cause of the incident.
Aside from bad weather, the probe team is also eyeing pilot error and the condition of the helicopter as possible causes of the crash.
The remaining two Sikorsky helicopters in the inventory of the PAF were grounded due to the incident.