MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 28 November) — Two Philippine Air Force (PAF) Vietnam War vintage Huey helicopters figured in two separate accidents while trying to airlift wounded soldiers during operations in Lanao del Sur against the Dawlah Islamiyah militants, locally known as Maute Group, on Thursday and Friday.
Maj. Gen. Gene Ponio, commander of the 1st Infantry Division said a pilot and a crewmember of a Huey UH-1H helicopter that crashed Friday morning were injured and safely evacuated.
The downed helicopter was the second that met an accident while trying to airlift four Army soldiers wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Madalum town, Lanao del Sur on Thursday. One of the soldiers died that evening.
The first chopper, a Huey 1D, tried to airlift the wounded soldiers last Thursday but the pilot decided not to take off back to the 103rd Infantry Brigade’s Kampo Ranaw when he felt the aircraft did not have enough lift to fly.
“The pilot felt he did not have the power to take off,” Ponio said.
The helicopter reportedly spent Thursday night at the improvised landing zone on a mountaintop in Madalum town.
On Friday morning, two more helicopters were sent to pick up the wounded and provide support to the downed helicopter.
“The operation went smoothly until the second UH1H chopper met inclement weather as it tried to take off,” a military official privy to the operation told reporters.
He said the second UH1H figured in a “rough” landing, wounding the pilot and a crewmember. The other helicopter managed to take off successfully bringing the Armys’ medical team.
Brig. Gen. Jose Maria Cuerpo, commander of the Army 103rd Infantry Brigade, said one of the four soldiers died Thursday night while the three others arrived by military trucks in Kampo Ranao in Marawi Friday afternoon.
He said the military operation on Thursday targeted a band of 20 Dawlah Islamiyah militants led by its new leader, Faharudin Hadji Satar alias Abu Bakar or Abu Zacaria.
Cuerpo said the soldiers were about to attack the camp of the militants when an IED exploded, wounding the four soldiers. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)