Chopper crashes in S. Cotabato; probe launched

KORONADAL CITY Four persons were injured after a helicopter owned by a fruit company crashed on Wednesday morning in a remote village at the foot of Mt. Matutum in Tupi town in South Cotabato.

The crash occurred just as the chopper took off at around 10 a.m. from a field base of Dole-Stanfilco in Sitio Glandang, Barangay Kablon in Tupi, said Kablon barangay chair Osting Tilo Jr.

According to the spot report of Tupi Police Station, on board the helicopter were pilot Capt. Dennis Figueroa and three passengers -foreign nationals Dr. Jorge Gonzales and Cecilia Donaire, and a Filipina, Alica Bengco. The three passengers are said to be executives of Dole Philippines, Inc. and were on their way to the Municipality of Surallah.

"It was still flying low when it crashed," Figueroa said in an interview over radio station Bombo Radyo here.

Rescuers from the Tupi Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office were able to respond at the scene of the crash and provided assistance to the victims.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) immediately launched a probe on the incident.

All three passengers and the pilot are safe and were brought to the Howard Hubbard Memorial Hospital in Polomolok, according to CAAP. They sustained minor bruises and will still undergo further health examination, the agency added.

The CAAP sent its Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board (AAIIB) inspectors to probe the cause of the crash.

The model R44 Raven 2 helicopter crashed just a few minutes after its take-off from Dole-Stanfilco avocado farm in Sitio Glandang, Brgy Kablon, Tupi, South Cotabato, before 10 a.m.

Based on police report obtained by CAAP, all the passengers were conscious when they were rescued.

Last May 14, another helicopter crashed in South Cotabato. The pilot was injured after the private helicopter, which was used in spraying pesticides, crash-landed at the vicinity of Sitio Upper Bianan, Barangay Basag in Tboli town.

The helicopter sprayer, owned by Vibrant Helicopters Agricultural Spray Corporation based in Davao City, was en route to Barangay Kling in Kiamba, Sarangani from a banana plantation in Tampakan, South Cotabato, when it crashed. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency