Thu, Apr 09, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Top Arroyo aides feared dead in helicopter crash

AFP , MANILA

Rescue workers said yesterday there appeared to be no survivors after a government helicopter carrying some of Philippine President Gloria Arroyo’s closest aides crashed into a mountain range.

But they said they had found only three bodies in the charred wreckage and could not account for the other five listed as being on board.

The wreckage of the Bell 412 aircraft was found in a wooded section on Mount Pulag, the country’s third highest peak, in the Cordillera mountain range, they said.

“We continue to search for the five other passengers,” a visibly shaken Arroyo said in a brief chat with reporters after canceling her public appointments for the day.

She urged Filipinos to “join me in extending condolences to the families of the three victims and pray that the five others are still alive and will be rescued soon.”

The aircraft was carrying Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia, two military aides, including Brigadier-General Carlos Clet, Arroyo’s diary secretary, and another staffer and three crew when it went missing on Tuesday.

Head of the presidential management staff Hermogenes Esperon said the burnt wreckage was found in the village of Tawangan by police from the town of Tinoc, who said they hiked more than 10 hours toward the 2,928m mountain to reach the site.

“These are the people who work with the president every day. They are the people the president sees day after day,” Arroyo spokesman Cerge Remonde said.

“She [Arroyo] was really sad,” Esperon said.

“We found one body intact, apparently that of the pilot,” rescuer Samuel Guyon of Tinoc police told DZBB radio by telephone.

He said that body parts, possibly of two people, were also found and “all were burnt,” but they had not located any of the other people.

The helicopter was flying Arroyo’s aides to Ifugao in the north of the country, where Arroyo was due to visit yesterday. Aides said she had since canceled her trip.

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