Retrieval ops for 2 pilots continue Wednesday

Posted at 08/21/12 7:18 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Retrieval operations for the bodies of the two pilots of the ill-fated Piper Seneca plane that also carried Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo were aborted on Tuesday afternoon because of a “minor accident.”

Operations to get the bodies of pilots Capt. Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitiz Chand will continue Wednesday at around 7:00 a.m.

In a press conference at the command post in Masbate, Task Force Kalihim chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo del Rosario said this decision was made following an accident involving one of the divers.

German technical diver Danny Brumbach experienced “decompression sickness” after hours of diving at the Ticao Channel, he said. Brumbach is now recovering, del Rosario added.

Prior to the accident, divers saw a “body” still in the cockpit of the wrecked plane. “We can’t assess if it’s one or two bodies because it’s very dark, we’re hoping there are two,” del Rosario said.

Divers easily recovered Robredo’s body this morning since the door next to him was already open, he said.

“We were also lucky that even if his seatbelt was not on, he was not thrown off. [Robredo] was just floating there when divers sighted the wreckage,” he added.

Divers could not continue retrieving the bodies of the pilots because the plane nose-dived into the seabed, crushing the pilots at the cock-pit, he added.

Nonetheless, divers already tied a rope around the plane. “We need one or two more to ensure the plane will be lifted totally.”

He said the plan was to lift the entire plane with the bodies still inside.

Del Rosario said tomorrow will be a purely military operations already, with Philippine Navy technical divers directed to go out to sea. The Navy has six registered technical divers who can go 200 feet deep into the sea.

Brumbach, along with other civilian divers, went to Masbate after the government sought help in the search operations.

Del Rosario assured that the wreckage is still far from the 1,000-feet decline at the channel, which would make it very difficult to retrieve the bodies.

He said the military will exert effort to finish operations early tomorrow.