13 killed in crash–3 on the plane, 10 on the ground
What was supposed to have been a quiet afternoon in a Parañaque village on Saturday turned into a horrific nightmare for a number of families.
A light aircraft that had just taken off from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) crash-landed into a crowded slum inside the Better Living subdivision, razing over a hundred houses and killing at least 13 people, including three children, and leaving at least another 20 injured.
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines chief Ramon Gutierrez said the six-to-eight-seater Beechcraft Queen Air plane sent out a distress call shortly after taking off from the airport for Mindoro at about 2:11 p.m. Saturday. It crashed before it was able to return to the airport.
Police said the plane crashed into a small vacant lot adjacent to a row of shanties inside the middle-class Better Living village in Barangay Don Bosco. The fire from the crash quickly spread through the makeshift houses, across a creek, and into the F. Serrano Elementary School. No classes were in session when the plane hit.
“The plane struck one house but the others also went up in flames. These are informal settlers, packed into rows of houses,” said Chief Insp. Enrique Sy of the Parañaque police department.
The crash killed the pilot, the copilot and one passenger, the only people inside the plane, while the rest of the victims are thought to be residents of the shanty town, Sy said.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), quoting reports from the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), earlier said 14 people had died from the crash. But the PRC later said there were only 13 fatalities.
Parañaque Mayor Florencio Bernabe Jr. said at least 20 injured had been taken to hospital. PRC secretary general Gwendolyn Pang confirmed that 10 injured victims were in one nearby hospital.
Sy said 20 injured residents had been rushed to Parañaque Doctor’s Hospital, Parañaque Medical Center and South Super Highway Hospital.
“Thank God it was not a school day. If this happened on a school day, a lot of children could have possibly been affected,” said Bernabe.
Like flying stunts
Residents could be seen looking over the burnt debris of the aircraft that were scattered all over the crash site on Lower Taiwan Street in Better Living on Saturday.
According to resident Jimboy Valenzuela, he thought the plane was doing flying or exhibition stunts.
He said planes doing such stunts were a common sight during weekends. “There were children playing, women doing laundry and men having drinking sessions,” Valenzuela said.
“It was spinning and then to my horror, it suddenly crash-dived,” he said in Filipino.
He said he heard a loud explosion and then fire quickly engulfed the houses.
“It was a good thing it was a Saturday. Imagine what a bigger tragedy it would have been had it been a weekday and children were in school,” Valenzuela said.
Jerry de los Santos, another resident, said the aircraft “looked like a remote-controlled toy plane from afar.”
Junjie Rodriguez said one of the victims included his sister Maricel Garado. He said his sister was looking for her child when the crash happened.
“The plane must have crashed into her because she had gone to the area looking for her child. Of all places to have crashed, it had to be here,” Rodriguez tearfully recounted.
Another resident, Jaycee Manlangit, said he saw charred bodies, a mother and child in a tight embrace, but could not say for sure if the bodies were those of Maricel and her child.
Wilma Manzanares said she was sweeping the yard in front of her house when the plane crashed.
“It crashed and exploded and then the smoke and fire followed. I thought of my children who had been playing in that exact same spot only a while ago. Thank God, they had left the area,” said Manzanares.
Her family’s house was one of those spared from the fire.
For another resident, Monico Abreu, 76, the crash not only injured one of his children, it also deprived him of his livelihood. He operated a piggery and all his pigs were burned by the blaze.
Resident Maribel Savedoria told dzBB radio how her husband perished in the blaze after pushing her, and their four children out through the window of their rented room.
“He pushed all of us out to save us, but he did not make it. There was an explosion and all my children sustained burns,” she said.
According to airport authorities, the plane took off from Runway 13-31 at around 2:11 p.m. bound for San Jose, Mindoro, to pick up cargo.
A few seconds after take-off, the pilot, identified as Capt. Timothy Albo, encountered problems with the aircraft and immediately radioed the control tower requesting for emergency landing status.
Albo reportedly attempted to turn the aircraft around and head back towards the airport but never made it.
“Unfortunately, the plane did not make it,” said Gutierrez, adding that the cause of the crash was not immediately known.
He said the Beechcraft, owned by Innovators Technology Inc., would have been carrying a full tank of fuel when it crashed.
The time of the crash was placed at 2:25 p.m.
Gutierrez said he has dispatched an investigation team to the site to determine the cause of the crash.
The fire, which reached the fire alarm Task Force Alpha, brought more than 40 fire trucks from all over the metropolis and neighboring cities to the scene of the crash. A helicopter was also seen pouring water into the site to put out the fire. The fire was declared out at around 4 p.m.
According to Sy of the Parañaque police, five bodies have been pulled out from the burnt shanties. The recovered bodies, which were charred beyond recognition, did not include the two people inside the crashed plane and several bodies still piled up inside some of the razed shanties.
Authorities have yet to identify the fatalities. As of press time, the victims’ bodies were still at the crash site as members of the Philippine National Police’s Scene of the Crime Operatives and investigators were conducting a probe of the area.
Bernabe told reporters that the blaze razed an estimated 50 homes, damaged 100 others, and affected some 600 persons. A portion of the three-story F. Serrano Elementary School was also damaged by flames.
He said affected residents are to be housed temporarily at the Annex 35 covered court in Barangay Don Bosco. The mayor also ordered the construction of makeshift classrooms.
The Parañaque Fire Department estimated damage to property at P6 million. He said at least 20 shanties and 17 classrooms of the school were damaged by the fire. With reports from Jeannette Andrade and AFP
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