MANILA — The Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Sunday it will look at different angles in the ongoing crash probe of the helicopter carrying PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa and seven other passengers in San Pedro, Laguna.
Meanwhile, there are also insinuations by some groups that Gamboa and company could have avoided the accident had they instead traveled by land because their destination is but a few kilometers away from the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
The same source also blamed the poor judgement on the part of the pilot who should have chosen a safe grassy landing spot instead of a sandy area whose particles could fly up in the air upon takeoff and cause poor visibility.
Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP Deputy Chief for Operations and head of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG), said they are looking into all angles that resulted in the crash, including the zero-visibility due to thick dust and debris, air worthiness of the chopper, and human error.
Eleazar, however, said the conspiracy theory about sabotage that is being floated in social media is unlikely.
“We are not ruling that out absolutely but it’s very unlikely because of the initial findings or information that we obtained in the field,” he said in a radio interview on Sunday.
Eleazar inspected the crash site with experts from the Philippine Air Force Safety Office and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Friday.
“From Day 1, CAAP has been there because they are really experts on this aspect. At the same time, we also invited experts din from the (Philippine) Air Force Safety Office,” he said.
Eleazar also urged local residents of San Pedro City, particularly those near the Laperal Compound in Barangay San Antonio, to either point to the police the location or hand over any part of the Bell 429 twin engine helicopter to the investigators.
He also urged netizens to provide any video they took before, during and after the crash in order to give the SITG a clear picture of what really happened.
Eleazar said the helicopter has no black box, an electronic recording device that preserves the recent history of an aircraft.
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.
In the coming days, he said, they will invite resource persons including survivors of the crash, first responders, and witnesses to determine what really transpired during the incident.
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.
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. of March 5. (PNA)