PHILIPPINE National Police chief General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa and seven others including three police generals miraculously survived a helicopter crash in San Pedro City in Laguna early yesterday morning.
“All police officers and pilots were safe with minor injuries,” said the PNP Public Information Office in a statement shortly after the crash near the impounding area of the PNP Highway Patrol Group in Laperal Compound in Barangay San Antonio, San Pedro City at 8:15 in the morning.
The PNP chief was immediately brought to the West Lake Hospital in San Pedro City for initial medical treatment while the others were taken to the South Wods Hospital. Later, Gen. Gamboa was transferred to the St. Lukes Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City.
Apart from Gen. Gamboa, the other passengers of the ill-fated Bell 429 police chopper were PNP Director for Intelligence Major Gen. Mariel M. Magaway, PNP Director for Comptrollership Maj. Gen. Jose Ma. Victor DF Ramos, PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard M. Banac, the PNP chief’s aide-de-camp Captain Kevin Gayramara , chopper pilot Lieutenant Colonel Roel Salazar, co-pilot Rico Macawili and helicopter crew member Police Senior Master Sergeant Louie Estona.
“I’m OK,” Gen. Gamboa said as he gave a thumbs-up sign while being wheeled to an ambulance that brought him to St. Lukes BGC. The PNP chief suffered injuries to his right shoulder but was otherwise in good condition, said PNP Chaplain Service director Colonel Jason Ortizo who was with him in the hospital.
“Ang ating pong Chief PNP ay nasa maayos na kalagayan. Yung iba naman po ay minomonitor natin,” PNP Deputy Chief for Operations Lieutenant Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said.
Other reports said that except for Generals Magaway and Ramos, all the victims were already in stable condition.
Witnesses said that the helicopter with body number RP3086 Bell 249 got caught in power lines shortly after takeoff. The chopper was to bring the PNP chief and his companions to the Police Regional Office 4-A headquarters in Calamba City where he would make a command visit. PRO4-A director, Brig. Gen. Vicente D. Danao Jr. immediately rushed to the site after learning about the crash.
According to Danao, the take-off site in Bgy. San Antonio was sandy and the chopper’s propellers fanned the sand, creating poor visibility.
The PNP chief and company went to the PN-HPG impounding area to inspect hundreds of motor vehicles brought there by the PNP-HPG. He was met by PNP-HPG director Brig. Gen. Eliseo DC Cruz.
Shortly after inspecting the HPG impounding area, the PNP chief boarded the chopper that would bring him to the PRO4-A headquarters.
However, the PNP-HPG officers were surprised to hear the sound of a helicopter in trouble before it came crashing down and immediately rushed to the officials’ rescue. The PNP chief was conscious when he was plucked out from the chopper, one of the twin-engine helicopters purchased by the PNP then under General-now Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa.
Air assets grounded
All police aircraft were ordered temporarily grounded yesterday in the wake of the helicopter crash in San Pedro City in Laguna which injured Philippine National Police chief General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa and seven others.
“The PNP Command Group and Quad Staff has convened and immediately ordered the temporary grounding of the entire PNP fleet of rotary-wing aircraft as a standard procedure while an investigation is underway. The PNP maintains a fleet of Airbus H-125, Bell-429, and Robinson R-44 multi-role police helicopters,” said acting PNP spokesperson, Major General Benigno B. Durana Jr.
Prayers for injured
“The PNP joins the public in prayer for their complete recovery. We also request netizens to refrain from posting images of the injured passengers out of respect for their privacy, and discourage them from making speculations and passing-on unverified information,” the official added.
Prayers in particular were asked for the critically injured recovery of Generals Ramos and Magaway, both classmates from Philippine Military Academy ‘Sinagtala’ Class of 1986 of Gen. Gamboa.