MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) temporarily suspended the use of all of its aircraft following the crash of one of its helicopters in San Pedro, Laguna on Thursday morning.
“We ordered the temporary grounding of the entire PNP fleet of rotary-wing aircraft as a standard procedure while an investigation is underway,” Maj. Gen. Benigno Durana Jr., PNP Director for Police Community Relations, told reporters in a press briefing at the St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Taguig City.
Currently, the PNP maintains a fleet of Airbus H-125, Bell-429 and Robinson R-44 multi-role police helicopters.
Durana said the Bell-429 chopper which carried PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa and seven others was durable and fully functional.
“Napakaganda at matibay pero we cannot speculate not unless makumpleto [It is well and durable but we cannot speculate unless the investigation is done],” Durana told reporters.
Durana said Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, will lead the special investigation task group Bell 429 to probe the incident.
Gamboa, PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, Gamboa’s aide Capt. Kevin Gayramara, pilots Lt. Colonel Roel Zalatar and Lt. Colonel Rico Macawili, and crew member Senior Master Sergeant Luis Estona are currently in stable condition at the SLMC.
Meanwhile, PNP Director for Intelligence Police Maj. Gen. Mariel Magaway and Director for Comptrollership Police Maj. Gen. Jovic Ramos are in critical condition.
Former PNP chief and now Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who visited Gamboa, confirmed that the chopper carrying Gamboa and members of his delegation was bought in 2018 during his term.
The chopper is worth PHP435 million.
“Yun yung unang chopper na na-procure namin during my time [That was the first chopper procured during my time],” dela Rosa told reporters in a chance interview.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año commended the first responders to the incident.
“We commend the PNP HPG (Highway Patrol Group), BFP and the local PNP for their quick action that saved the lives of the PNP Chief and his team. We thank the public for their support and ask for prayers for their immediate recovery,” Año said in a statement.
He said the crash area is currently cordoned and secured by the local PNP and HPG. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan /PNA – northboundasia.com