7 injured as helicopter crashes in Kitcharao, Agusan Norte

CAGAYANDE ORO CITY (MindaNews/11 March) —  A Philippine Air Force UH-1H Huey sent to rescue a wounded Army soldier and deliver supplies to troops fighting communist rebels crashed Sunday morning in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, injuring all seven personnel on board.

Major Eugene Osias, public information officer of the Army’s 4th InfantryDivision (4ID) said the pilot, co-pilot, two gunners and three soldiers were injured when the chopper crashed at around 10:30 a.m. on a hilly forested village in Kitcharao.

As of 5 p..m.. all of the injured military personnel, including the wounded soldier supposed to be airlifted, were still in Sitio Zapanta, Barangay Bangayan in Kitcharao.

“The weather around the crash site was really bad. The other helicopter did not even attempt to land,” Osias said.

Maj. Gen. Victor Felix, chief of the 4th ID has ordered an investigation to determine the cause of the crash.

“I am relieved that the pilots, their crew and passengers only sustained minor injuries,” Felix said in a statement.

Osias said the ill-fated helicopter along with another Huey chopper was supporting an ongoing military operation in the hinterlands of Kitcharao town.

He said the two helicopterss flew from Bancasi airport in Butuan City to pick up a wounded soldier and deliver supplies in Sitio Zapanta Sunday morning. The ill-fated aircraft led the two-chopper relief mission.

Osias said the helicopter was hovering near the ground when it suddenly crashed.

“There was no ground fire whatsoever. The chopper just went down,” he said adding  that the crash site has been experiencing bad weather for several days.

Osias said the second helicopter aborted the landing and returned to Bancasi airport.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines operates a fleet of 40 Vietnam war-vintage UH-1HHuey helicopters in its counter-insurgency operations and disaster response missions. It recently acquired four brand-new SOKOL multi-purpose Combat Utility Helicopters.

The helicopter crash came exactly a week after a chartered light plane carrying a vacationing Norwegian family crashed as it was about to land at the airport in Mambajao town in Camiguin, killing the pilot and one of the passengers.

The Camiguin police quoted witnesses as saying the plane was lining up to land at around 8 a,m. on March 4 when it met a strong gust of wind, swerved and hit a coconut tree nearby.  (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)