The wreckage of a Cessna plane was found Sunday morning near the crater of famed Mayon Volcano, 32 hours after one was reported missing in Albay.
The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Camalig town said the Philippine Air Force was verifying whether the debris near the Mayon crater was in fact the crash site of the Cessna that went missing on Saturday.
In a statement, Camalig Mayor Caloy Baldo confirmed that the aircraft that crashed on the upper part of Barangay Quirangay along the Anoling gully, two kilometers from an Incident Command Post of the Forest Rangers at Mayon, was the missing Cessna.
The Office of Civil Defense in Region 5 then produced a photo, taken 6,500 feet above the active volcano, that it said was “the missing Cessna 340 aircraft with tail number RP-C2080 (which) was found at6:53 a.m. yesterday. It was taken 350 meters away from the crater of Mayon Volcano.”
But only the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines can confirmif it is the missing Cessna, “as they are the only ones who can identify that plane,” Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office head Dr. Cedric Daep said in a dzBB interview, adding the crash site was difficult to access.
This is the second Cessna plane to go missing in Luzon this year, with the first disappearing in Isabela province in January.
For the one that went missing in Albay, Pilot Capt. Rufino James Crisostomo Jr., crew Joel Martin, and the plane’s Australianpassengers, Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santanan, have yet to be found.
Australian citizens Chipperfield and Santanan are technical consultants of the Energy Development Corporation, which runs theBac-Man geothermal power plant straddling the towns of Bacon, Albay and Manito, Sorsogon.
Manila-based EDC said the missing plane belonged to the company and it was seeking to confirm if the wreckage spotted on Sunday in “very steep terrain and high altitude of about 6,000 feet” was theirs.
Regional police said rescue teams with sniffer dogs had been deployed to find the crash site. An aerial search will continue Monday to locate the missing people.
“The problem is the weather is bad and it hampers the visibility of the ground search,” CAAP spokesman Eric Apolonio told AFP.
“There might be a sudden ash explosion and we could be added to the casualties,” Daep told local radio DZBB. “We are not discounting the possibility that they could still be alive.”
The plane, a Cessna 340A, left the Bicol International Airport (BIA) at 6:43 a.m. on Saturday bound for Manila before disappearing. It was supposed to land in Manila by 7:53 a.m.
“Authorities are presently investigating the crash site to map out factors that led to the recent incident in town,” said Baldo.
“Search and rescue operations are still in effect unless dead bodiesare found, then it will be declared as search and retrieval operations,” he added. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
“It’s less than two kilometers from the volcano’s crater if I’m not mistaken. Considering the volcano is under an Alert Level 2, it’s very active and there could be an eruption anytime,” added Camalig MDRRMO
Public Information Officer Tim Lawrence Florence said.
With on-foot search-and-rescue operations halted, it is up to the PAF’s Region 5 tactical operations group to conduct an aerial survey on the possible crash site, he added.
“The location is a river channel that you need to search in case there are any survivors,” Daep said.
The mayor said with the augmentation support from national agencies, the search and rescue team is closely coordinating with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, considering the risks posed by Mayon Volcano’s current Alert Level 2 status.
The Camalig local government would formulate protocols intended for search and rescue/retrieval operations, along with the prioritization of responders’ safety, Baldo said.
Earlier Sunday, the CAAP said its search for the Cessna missing from Isabela was still ongoing.
“The search operation continues since the plane was first declared missing on January 24. Up to now, the search continues. This morning, we will have air assets fly if weather permits,” Apolonio said in an interview on radio dzBB.
The agency issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) on Saturday lifting the flight ban from Cauayan, Isabela to Bongabon, Nueva Ecija since it was determined that the missing plane was not on that flight path.
The said Cessna C206 plane RPC 1174 took off from Cauayan Airport in Isabela at 2:15 p.m. on January 24 heading for Maconacon town.
On board the light aircraft were its pilot and five passengers.
The pilot last communicated with air traffic controllers at around 2:19 p.m. in Naguilian. The plane was expected to arrive at Maconacon at 2:45 p.m.
The Isabela Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said then that the weather was clear when the plane left Cauayan Airport, but the wind around Sierra Madre was reportedly “turbulent.”
An object that could be debris from the missing Cessna plane was spotted by residents near Barangay Sapinit in Divilacan, Isabela, according to Isabela Provincial Information Office administrative officer Joshua Hapinat.
A team on the ground is also continuing the search operation.
They are zeroing in on a 500-meter cliff in the Sierra Madre range in Divilacan after K-9 search dogs tracked a foul smell emanating from the area, according to a report on 24 Oras Weekend.
The dogs were first allowed to sniff the clothes of two child passengers. They all then proceeded near the cliff.