CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 16 January) – A Philippine Air Force helicopter crashed while resupplying troops fighting communist rebels in Bukidnon on Saturday afternoon, killing its pilots – an Air Force colonel and a lieutenant — two crew members and three soldiers assisting in the mission.
Major General Andres Centeno, commanding general of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division said the Vietnam vintage Huey UH-1H together with another Huey helicopter were ferrying supplies to soldiers the entire day when one of the helicopters crashed at around 2:30 p.m
Centeno said soldiers who reached the crash site near Barangay Busdi, Malaybalay City, found no survivors.
The hinterland village is accessible via Impasug-ong town, he said.
Centeno said they are withholding the names of victims pending notification of their families.
He said on its third resupply mission to the military base in Pantaron mountain range, the second Huey helicopter spotted smoke trailing from the ill-fated aircraft.
Centeno said the pilots of the second Huey helicopter radioed the ill-fated aircraft about the smoke.
“The pilots of the ill-fated aircraft confirmed they saw the smoke and radioed back that they were executing a turn,” Centeno said.
He said soon after the helicopter turned, it suddenly nose-dived towards a row of houses but its pilots steered the helicopter and crashed on an open field instead.
“It tumbled during impact,” he said.
Centeno said the second Huey helicopter flew around the crash site till sundown and was able to ferry two bodies to the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade in Malaybalay city.
The 4th Infantry Division has established military camps in Pantaron mountain range bordering the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon in an effort to meet the deadline set by President Rodrigo Duterte to crush the communist rebels in 2022.
This is the second time the Vietnam vintage UH-1H helicopter figured in an accident while supporting combat operations in Mindanao.
Last November 27, a Huey helicopter crashed in Madalum town, Lanao del Sur while ferrying soldiers wounded in a firefight with Dawlah Islamiya militants.
The same day, another Huey helicopter developed engine trouble while supporting the downed aircraft. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)