Pilot’s body recovered; Nepali still missingBy Jonas Cabiles Soltes, Michael Lim Ubac
Inquirer Southern Luzon
MASBATE CITY—Navy divers on Wednesday recovered the body of Capt. Jessup Bahinting, one of the two pilots of the light plane that crashed into the sea with Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and his aide on board four days ago.
Robredo’s body was found on Tuesday and is now lying in state in his hometown in Naga City. His aide, Senior Insp. June Paulo Abrazado, survived.
Bahinting’s body was retrieved from the right side of the Piper Seneca’s cockpit at 5:15 p.m. at a depth of 21 meters, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told journalists. “It was pulled out by our ship using ropes,” he said.
“He was wearing a Fossil watch and blue shirt with stripes, and he was seated on the right side of the aircraft and firmly strapped (to) his seat,” Gazmin said.
The pilot’s daughter, Sarah, identified her father through his watch and ring at La Funeraria Eternas here, said Lt. Col. Julian Pacatan, Army commander in Masbate.
Gazmin remained hopeful that divers could still locate the other pilot, Nepali Kshitiz Chand.
“We will go as far as where we can if only to locate the body. Maybe it will be scaled down a bit if we do away with the retrieval (operations) in that particular area. We will have to expand (the search) left and right and ask the communities in the coastal areas for information,” he said.
Search and retrieval operations will resume Thursday.
Maj. Gen. Eduardo del Rosario, head of Task Force Kalihim, said the ill-fated plane had to be pulled up first from a depth of 54 meters using ropes tied to a Coast Guard vessel.
“There is no need anymore to pull it (plane) up. It will be brought nearer to the shoreline (for efficiency),” he said.
“Actually, where it was pulled out, the rope that was placed in the second dive got loosened, so we have to insert another rope and tie the tail of the plane to ensure that it will not fall down again. The one holding was the original rope that was placed yesterday (Tuesday). So we now have two ropes attached to the tail of the aircraft. That rope saved our day.”
The body of Bahinting was recovered during the third dive, which began at 3:08 p.m., Gazmin said.
The first one was suspended after a sudden downpour accompanied by gusty wind. Moreover, the undercurrents were “too strong” that even experienced divers from the Navy would not dare venture into, Navy Capt. Rommel Galang said at noon Wednesday.
The investigation into Saturday’s tragedy will start once the plane is recovered, Del Rosario said in the briefing.
A team from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has been seen here since Tuesday at the command center in La Sala Resort, less than a kilometer away from the crash site.
Semblance of order
Both the Coast Guard ship, BRP Edsa, which contains a decompression chamber to treat divers suffering from decompression sickness or “bends,” and the Navy’s BRP Ang Pangulo are on standby to assist the divers in retrieval operations.
Until Tuesday, before Robredo’s body was finally retrieved, the massive search was a combined effort of uniformed Armed Forces services, the Philippine National Police and volunteer divers, enlisting 600 people, 17 ships and nine aircraft.
Only a lean workforce and coordinated resources have been left to continue the retrieval effort. With fewer people and no top government honchos, a semblance of order has been restored on the ground. With Frances Mangosing, INQUIRER.net
Originally posted at 05:50 pm | Wednesday, August 22, 2012