By Ali G. Macabalang
At least three Air Force personnel and three Army servicemen were confirmed dead when the chopper carrying them crashed into a village in Bukidnon Saturday afternoon.
The number of fatalities could rise to seven as initial reports said authorities were searching for a seventh passenger missing and believed to have perished also somewhere else.
The ill-fated UH-1H Air Force helicopter was on a resupply mission for a military unit in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon when its engine allegedly malfunctioned, causing the crash at around 2pm. On a grassy section of Barangay Bulonay Impasog-ong in the same city, the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) said in an initial report.
Reports attributed to Major Rodulfo Cordero, 4ID public affairs office chief, named the PAF fatalities as Lt. Col. Arnie Arroyo, the chopper pilot from Zamboanga City, 2Lt. Mark Anthony Caabay, co-pilot; and crew Sgt Stephen Agarado; Army Sergeants Mervin Bersabe and Julius Salvado, and CAA Jerry Ayukdo.
Civilian residents living near the crash site took photos of the chopper’s wreckage and dead bodies, and posted in social media networks to alarm authorities.
Local scribe Neptalie Batolenio also posted a file photo of the slain Lt. Col. Arroyo taken while on an earlier flight.
Soldiers have secured the crash site while another military team was reported searching for a seventh passenger of the ill-fated helicopter.
Higher authorities were reportedly conducting a thorough probe on the incident, which happened at a time the social media networks brimmed reports about strong downpours causing floods in low-lying areas of Region 10, notably in nearby Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City. AGM