PAF grounds Sikorsky choppers for inspection after Basilan crash

By Priam Nepomuceno

September 17, 2020, 10:33 am

MANILA – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced that all remaining units of its Sikorsky S-76A rescue helicopters are grounded for "prompt maintenance inspection" following the mishap in Basilan that killed four people on Wednesday.

In a message to Philippine News Agency Thursday, PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Aristides Galang said an investigation team will also be sent to the area to conduct further investigation on the accident.

He added that they will also look into environmental, material, and human factors in determining the cause of the mishap.

Galang also clarified that all PAF aircraft in service undergo strict maintenance before being deployed to missions and said the S-76A is a "tough and dependable" helicopter.

He added that the S-76A helicopter with tail number 202 belong to their 505th Search-and-Rescue Group and was deployed for a medical evacuation mission in Jolo and took off around 12:33 p.m. The aircraft was based at Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City.

"At around 1:24 p.m., the PAF received reports of a crashed helicopter in the vicinity of Barangay Upper Manggas, Lantawan, Basilan. It was later confirmed by responding government forces that it was indeed the S-76A #202 helicopter that was bound for Jolo. Upon confirmation, the PAF immediately informed the bereaved families of the four PAF fallen heroes," Galang said.

Killed in the accident were Maj. Jessie Miller, the pilot in command, 1Lt. Mack-Ar Ferrer, co-pilot, S/Sgt. Miguel Bañas Jr. and Airman 2nd Class Benedicto Leal Jr.

"The men and women of the Philippine Air Force, led by its Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Allen T. Paredes, is greatly saddened with the loss of our four gallant airmen and extends its greatest sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families. The PAF will be giving necessary assistance to the bereaved families," he said.

He added that the bodies of the four fallen crewmen were retrieved and immediately ferried from Basilan to Zamboanga City. (PNA)