9 killed in Air Force plane crash in Cotabato

Posted at 01/28/2010 12:19 PM | Updated as of 01/29/2010 11:07 AM

Mechanical failure eyed as cause of crash


MANILA, Philippines (8th UPDATE) - A Nomad plane of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) crashed in a subdivision in Cotabato City late Thursday morning killing 9 people and injuring one.

Lt. Col. Gerardo Zamudio, PAF spokesman, confirmed to ABS-CBN News that Maj. Gen. Mario 'Butch' Lacson, commander of the PAF's 3rd Air Division in Zamboanga City, and 7 other personnel on the plane, were killed in the crash.

The 7 other PAF personnel who died were:

+ Lacson's staff officer Maj. Prisco Tacoboy;
+ Aide-de-camp 2nd Lt. Alexander Ian Lipae;
+ Sgt. Maria Rose Lamera;
+ Sgt. Ian Mejia;
+ Pilot Captain Gaylord Ordonio;
+ Co-pilot 1st Lt. Angelica Valdez; and
+ Crew chief Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Gozon.

The PAF leadership has already informed the families of the victims about the death of their loved ones.

Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema reported to ABS-CBN News that a civilian on the ground, identified as Inday Mondrano, was also killed in the crash. Another resident named Jela Gumiton was injured.

Brig. Gen. Carlix Donila, wing commander of the 530th Air Base Wing said the pilot of the Nomad plane was able to contact the tower minutes before the plane crashed.

The pilot said the plane was experiencing power loss.

Mechanical failure?

Donila said they are considering the angle that mechanical failure may have caused the crash.

“Reports indicate that the pilot contacted the tower and called that they were experiencing power loss…If we review what [was initially reported], the first thing that will come to our mind is mechanical failure,” Donila said.

Zamudio said the plane took off at 11:35 am, and at 11:37 am, the pilot radioed the tower that they would return to the station. That was the last communication from the pilot.

Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the military's Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), said the Nomad N22B plane with tail number 18 crashed in Virgo Subdivision in Rosary Heights 9.

Ferrer said Lacson and other PAF officials attended a meeting at the EastMinCom headquarters in Davao City on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Nomad plane left Davao City at around 9 a.m., dropped off Tactical Operations Group chief Col. Cris Tumanda at the Awang Airport in Cotabato City, and was on its way to Zamboanga City when it crashed.

The plane burst into flames right after the crash. The plane crashed landed into at least 2 houses, which also caught fire.

Tumanda said the plane crashed right after take off from Awang airport.

‘Reliable plane’

CRASHED!


Since 1947, at least 163 have died from aviation-related accidents involving the Philippine military. See list.

At a press conference after the crash, Zamudio said PAF chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Ravena ordered the 3 remaining Nomad planes of the PAF grounded. He also formed an investigating team headed by Brig. Gen. Jesus Fajardo, the PAF’s chief of staff.

He said Fajardo and his team were already on their way to Cotabato City to start the probe.

Zamudio said the PAF had a total of 4 Nomad planes. He said all 3 remaining planes are “in good flying conditions.’

Zamudio said the 4 Nomad planes were bought "in mint conditions" in December 1975 and was delivered to the Philippines in 1976.

He said all of the PAF’s Nomad planes are in Mindanao, transporting commanders to remote areas including Jolo, Sulu and Basilan.

Donilo told reporters in Zamboanga City that Nomad planes are “very reliable” since they can land on any flat surface.

“Its primary mission in Australia was to go to remote areas. Even without a runway, they can land. That plane is very reliable,” the PAF official said.

He said that it was just unfortunate that the accident happened. (Article continued after video)

'Jolly person'

Col. Isagani Silva, one of the Air Force officers under Lacson's command, said Lacson was a very jolly person and a "very considerate" official.

Lacson graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1977. He went straight to flying school in 1978 and graduated the same year.

The PAF official had also served as commander of the 505th Search and Rescue Group. Prior to his assignment to the 3rd Air Division, he was the commander of the 560th Air Base Wing based in Mactan, Cebu.

Donilo told reporters that the 3rd Air Division is "at a loss" after Lacson's passing.

"We have lost a very competent and amiable commander. He is one person you can get along with very easily. We cannot accept the fact that he is already gone as well as the other officers who were with him," he said. -- With reports from Lerio Bompat, ABS-CBN Central Mindanao and RJ Rosalado, ABS-CBN Zamboanga