Government scrambles rescue units to find plane wreckage, survivorsBy Matikas Santos
MANILA, Philippines—Several hours after the plane carrying Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo crashed off the coast of Masbate Saturday afternoon, search and rescue (SAR) units have yet to find any trace of the wreckage and its passengers.
Several agencies have scrambled their SAR units to find the wrecked plane and three of the passengers inside who were not able to escape when it crashed about 500 meters from the runway of Masbate Airport, a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) report released said Saturday night.
Robredo’s aide-de-camp, Police Senior Inspector Juhn Abrazado, had managed to escape the six-seater Piper Seneca plane owned by Aviatour Flight School from Cebu as it was sinking. He was rescued by passing fishermen who saw the crash, it said.
The pilot, identified as Captain Jessup Bahinting, and co-pilot Nepalese flight student Kshitiz Chand, are still subject of SAR operations, the report said.
The Naval Forces Southern Luzon (NAVFORSOL) has deployed two patrol gunboats to the area.
Masbate Provincial Police Office and Maritime Police Masbate headed by Police Chief Superintendent Villamor are also assisting in the SAR operations.
The SAR unit 3540 of Cebu City and a group of divers from Legaspi city have also been deployed.
Masbate City Vice Mayor Atty. Alan Cos said in a phone interview that they had to suspend diving operations because it had gotten too dark and too deep for their diving equipment.
They needed additional diving equipment to be able to go deeper than 135 to 150 feet underwater, Cos said.
Office of Civil Defense Executive Director Benito Ramos told INQUIRER.net that a P3 Orion aircraft from the United States, coming from Okinawa, Japan, would be coming Sunday to help in the SAR operations. It has equipment capable of detecting objects underwater, he said.
Robredo was coming from a convention in Cebu City and was headed to his hometown of Naga when the plane radioed Masbate airport asking for permission to make an emergency landing. The plane was believed to have encountered engine trouble and crashed in the waters of Boulevard, Ibingay village, Masbate.