Maria Fe Pame, chief of the Kidapawan City Investment and Promotion Division, identified the victim as Ian Caasi, member of the Mindanao Alliance Mountaineering Club of Davao City.
Pame said a group of climbers from Davao City arrived at Lake Venado at exactly 4:30 p.m. on Maundy Thursday, passing the Kapatagan trail in Digos, Davao del Sur. Three of them – Ernesto Arluz, Jeffrey Parantar and Caasi — immediately went to the lake to cool themselves.
Parantar said he tried to save Caasi but the extremely cold water in the middle of the lake prevented him from swimming towards him.
Lake Venado is hidden among the mountain ranges at an elevation of 7,200 feet above sea level, making it the country’s highest lake.
Jake Clebillio, president of the Mindanao Alliance Mountaineering Club, immediately asked the assistance of the Kidapawan City police and Special Action Forces that maintained a base camp in the area for the mountaineers’ security.
The Philippine National Police and a composite team from the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) porters and the City Disaster Coordinating Council (CDCC) immediately launched rescue operations but failed to recover Caasi.
Chief Insp. Leo Ajero of the Kidapawan City chief of police said the extremely cold weather and zero visibility in the area surrounding Lake Venado has caused delayed in the ongoing retrieval operation.
“We are now on the second day of operation but still the composite team even the scuba divers of the Philippine Air Force have difficulty in locating the body of the victim,” Ajero said.
Rescuers from Cotabato City, Davao del Sur province and the local 505 Search and Rescue Team in Kidapawan City are now in Mount Apo to assist in the retrieval operations. (Williamor A. Magbanua/MindaNews)