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Rescuers to be honored for bravery, sacrifice

By Villamor Visaya Jr.
Inquirer Northern Luzon
First Posted 03:44:00 04/30/2009

Filed Under: Awards and Prizes, Military

SANTIAGO CITY, ISABELA?For more than a week, 19 soldiers trekked the treacherous Sierra Madre mountains, climbing 80-degree rocks and cliffs and crossing swollen rivers to retrieve the bodies of seven passengers of a plane that crashed on April 2 in Baggao, Cagayan.

For their courage and sacrifice, the soldiers, all belonging to the Army, will be awarded the Bronze Cross medal?the fourth highest honor given to military personnel.

The soldiers risked their lives to reach the Islander plane that crashed on a slope of the thickly forested Mt. Alyas Diyes in Barangay San Miguel in Baggao, according to their commanding officer, Col. Remegio de Vera of the Army?s 501st Infantry Brigade.

?Remarkable?

Aside from the perilous trek, the soldiers, who were joined by 23 volunteers, braved the dangerous animals in the area as well as the heavy rains, De Vera said.

?This is something remarkable,? he said.

The soldiers will receive the medals from Army officials in the second week of May at the 5th Infantry Division headquarters in Gamu, Isabela.

The 23 volunteers?composed of five policemen, five firemen and 13 mountaineers and members of the local government?will also be honored, De Vera said.

Stranded

The twin-engine Islander, owned by ChemTrad Corp., left the Tuguegarao Airport on April 2 with two pilots and five passengers for a 35-minute flight to Maconacon, Isabela.

It was reported missing after it failed to land in Maconacon.

The wreckage was spotted 12 days later.

The pilots, Capt. Tomas Yañez and Capt. Reiner Ruiz, and passengers SPO2 Rolly Castaños, Celestino Salacup, Abelardo Baggay, James Bakilan and Joel Basilio all died in the crash.

But even after the bodies were recovered on April 21, the retrievers were stranded in the crash site for two days because of the rains.

They were ferried to the Tuguegarao Airport only on April 24.



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