MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) will focus on the review of guidelines on the usage of its air assets in its probe on the crash of the helicopter carrying PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa and seven other passengers in San Pedro, Laguna.
Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP Deputy Chief for Operations and head of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG), inspected the crash site with experts from the Philippine Air Force Safety Office and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Friday.
“We requested (their) assistance because they are the experts on this field,” Eleazar told reporters.
Initial investigation has been conducted by the local police and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), he said.
Eleazar said the helicopter has no black box, an electronic recording device that preserves the recent history of an aircraft.
“Some say there is a flight radar and black box but we have yet to find out. But according to the provincial director of Laguna who happens to be a pilot, this Bell 429 (helicopter) has no black box,” Eleazar noted.
Eleazar said authorities would make use of existing pieces of evidence, which include statements of witnesses, first responders, and passengers, in probing the accident.
“(Ito ay para) makita ang buong situation para we can make the necessary findings and recommendations [This is for us to see the whole situation to make necessary findings and recommendations],” he said.
While the investigation is ongoing, the flying of seven air assets of the PNP has been suspended, Eleazar said.
Such move was part of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), he added.
While he did not give a time table, Eleazar said they aim to finish the investigation at the soonest possible time.
“We need a thorough investigation. This is not a case where we are looking for a murderer or a pursuit operation where time is of the essence. Still, the faster, the better,” he said in Filipino.
He said this is the first time the PNP is conducting an investigation of an aircraft accident.
He also ensured that the grounding of the entire PNP fleet would not affect other police operations.
Aside from Gamboa, the other passengers of the helicopter were PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, Director for Comptrollership Maj. Gen. Jovic Ramos, Director for Intelligence Maj. Gen. Mariel Magaway, Gamboa’s aide Capt. Kevin Gayramara, pilots Lt. Col. Roel Zalatar and Lt. Col. Rico Macawili, and crew member Senior Master Sgt. Luis Estona.
Gamboa, Banac, Gayramara, Estona and the two pilots are in stable condition at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City.
Meanwhile, Ramos and Magaway remain in critical condition at the Unihealth Southwoods Hospital and Medical Center (Unihealth) in Laguna Asian Hospital in Muntinlupa, respectively.
The helicopter hit a high tension wire upon take-off due to poor visibility caused by thick dust, causing it to crash in Barangay San Antonio at around 8 a.m. Thursday. (ia/PNA)