Wreckage of Cessna plane found near Mayon crater
LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, Philippines — The wreckage of the Cessna plane that went missing after taking off from Bicol International Airport in Daraga town of Albay province on Saturday was found scattered near the crater of Mayon Volcano on Sunday, authorities said.
The Cessna RPC340 that was carrying four people was located along the gully of Mayon Volcano on Sunday afternoon, some 350 meters from the volcano’s crater, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said in a Facebook post.
Salceda shared in the post the photos of the ill-fated plane, showing the debris of what was believed to be the cockpit and the still intact tail.
As of 5 p.m. on Sunday, authorities have no information yet on the condition of the pilot, Capt. Rufino James Crisostomo Jr.; his mechanic, Joel Martin; and their two Australian passengers, Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam.
The Energy Development Corp. (EDC), the country’s largest producer of geothermal energy, released a statement on Sunday confirming that the four persons on board the aircraft were connected with the company.
Ground search halted
The EDC said they were coordinating closely with the local authorities and deployed their own emergency response teams from their geothermal facilities in the provinces of Albay, Leyte, Negros Oriental, and Davao to assist in the search.
“Our primary concern is the swift and safe rescue of our four colleagues who were on board the aircraft. We are thankful to [Camalig] Mayor [Irwin] Baldo for mobilizing his team to help us do this,” said lawyer Allan Barcena, assistant vice president and head of corporate relations and communications of EDC, in the statement.
EDC said they already coordinated with the families of the two Australian passengers who were working as their technical consultants.
Tim Lawrence Florece, information officer of the municipal government of Camalig, said in a chat message to the Inquirer that the search and rescue teams from the Philippine Air Force found the debris along the gullies of the volcano in the villages of Upper Quirangay and Anoling of the town.
Ground search and rescue teams were deployed on Sunday morning to locate the crash site but were asked to pull out to give way to more aerial operations and reassessment of search and rescue efforts, said Florece.
According to Florece, they also had to halt the ground search because it was getting late and it would be impossible to reach the crash site on foot before nightfall. The inclement weather also made it dangerous for the ground team to proceed, he added.
Before the ground search was suspended, Florece said in a phone interview that the continuous rains in Albay caused zero visibility in the area and could possibly trigger a lahar flow in Barangay Anoling.
Florece earlier said the search teams were facing “complex challenges” because the volcano is under alert level 2 and heavy rains could trigger lahar flows and floods along its slopes.
On Oct. 7, 2022, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the status of Mayon Volcano to alert level 2, which means there is a shallow magmatic process that could eventually lead to phreatic eruptions or even precede a hazardous magmatic eruption.
Under alert level 2, camping, hiking, climbing, and mountain biking were prohibited in the danger zone of the volcano but disaster operations were exempted from the ban.
Around 256 responders, 12 drones, and four K9 dogs were deployed in the villages of Anoling and Quirangay of Camalig for the ground search.