Bad weather hampers transport of Cessna crash victims’ remains

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay – Bad weather and the steep and slippery terrain of the slope of Mayon Volcano hampered the transportation of the bodies of the four crew and passengers of the ill-fated Cessna plane that crashed near the crater of Mayon Volcano last week.

RESPONDERS carry the retrieved bodies of the four Cessna plane crash victims. (Photo by Mayor Caloy Baldo via Sam Mabini, Joel Ducante, and Abon Ramos)

Camalig, Albay Mayor Carlos Irwin Baldo, operations incident commander, confirmed to the Manila Bulletin that the remains of the victims were supposed to be brought down from the crash site on Saturday night, Feb. 25, but this was delayed due to difficulties being encountered by the responders.

“Opo delayed, may mga obstacle pa (Yes, it was delayed, there are many obstacles),” Baldo said.

On Saturday afternoon, Baldo announced that responders successfully retrieved the bodies of the victims and will be brought to the base camp.

“As relaying the bodies through the anchor system entails difficulty in rope management because of the volcano's high-angle slopes, the Incident Management Team (IMT) proposed 20 personnel per body as one of their alternative measures to bring down the bodies for 200 to 300 meters and will be hoisted as the team locates a safe landing zone,” Baldo said in his Facebook post.

He also advised the team to cautiously carry out the operations to avoid endangering the lives of the responders.

At 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26, a  Mass was held at the Anoling Basketball Court in Barangay Anoling in Camalig.

A statement issued by the Energy Development Corp.  (EDC) said they are finalizing arrangements with the families of the victims in bringing the remains back to their homes.

“As the remains of the four passengers of Aircraft RP-C2080 that have been retrieved are being brought down from Mount Mayon to Barangay Anoling, the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) is finalizing arrangements with the families of Capt. James Crisostomo Jr. and Joel Martin as well as Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam for their remains to be brought back to their homes in the Philippines and in Australia, respectively,” Richard B. Tantoco, president and chief operating officer of EDC.

He thanked all the responders, the local officials, and other volunteers who helped in the search and rescue up to the retrieval operations.

“The EDC once again would like to express its profound gratitude to all the individuals and teams that worked together on the search, rescue, and finally, the retrieval of its four dear colleagues.  They have been working heroically for seven days since the small plane was reported delayed in the airport destination.  We are aware of the extreme challenges posed by the terrain, altitude, weather, and temperature, and other hazards involved in these retrieval operations, and for coming to the aid of others, we will be eternally grateful to each and every person and team that did not stop until our four Kapamilya were located and brought down to the high ground campsite. We pray the final legs of the trip down will be safe, and that the weather will be mild and dry,” he said.