THE first sign of trouble was detected by Senior Insp. Jun Abrazado 30 minutes after the Seneca Piper plane took off from the Mactan Cebu International Airport last Saturday afternoon.
At that time, the plane was already in Masbate, halfway between Cebu and their destination, Naga City in Bicol.
Pilot Capt. Jessup Bahinting then announced the plane would return to Cebu and turned back.
“He said the plane’s right engine weakened and conked out after a few minutes,” Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas said. Abrazado told the events of the crash to President Benigno Aquino III last Sunday.
He was the only person rescued so far from the plane crash. Abrazado is still placed under neurological observation at the Masbate Doctors Hospital since he lost consciousness sometime after being rescued.
Roxas said Abrazado, aide-de-camp of Interior and Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo, remembered that the plane was slowly descending by then and that he made sure that his and Robredo’s seatbelts were securely fastened.
“The single engine still running was apparently unable to bring them back. It was only half a kilometer from the edge of the runway in Masbate where they were supposed to make the emergency landing but (Abrazado) said he realized kakapusin sila (they would not make it),” Roxas reported.
Abrazado embraced the secretary as they braced for impact but Abrazado lost consciousness when he hit his head on the back of the seat in front of him as they hit water.
Roxas said Abrazado further narrated that he woke up and found water already up to his chest. Initially, the aide could not unfasten his seatbelt and feel whether Robredo was still beside him.
Unable to find Robredo, Abrasado managed to eventually unfasten his seatbelt and swam out of the sunken plane. Abrazado’s family thanked the fishermen who rescued him in the waters off Masbate City following the crash.
The President left Masbate City after overseeing the search and rescue operations for Robredo, Bahinting and Bahinting’s student Kshitiz Chand, who are still missing.
Roxas, the point person for the search and rescue operations, said Abrasado is “conscious,” with a few injuries.
Hours before the crash, Abrazado managed to send text messages to Supt. Ritchie Posodas, chief of the Police Center for Aviation Security (PCAS) about their situation.
Posados showed to Cebu Daily News text messages from Abrazado asking him to make plane reservations because they were planning an emergency landing in Masbate City.
Roxas said Abrazado became a father to a nine-day old baby. Questions about the safety of the Seneca Piper plane were raised by Rep. Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City’s south district, who pushed for an inspection of flight schools and centers.
“I couldn’t imagine why it could not climb at altitude when it was not even overloaded. I suspect that the plane was not well maintained,” he told Cebu Daily News.
Sylvan Jakosalem, Cebu City Integrated Traffic Operations Management (Citom) chairman, said the Seneca Piper plane piloted by Bahinting is one of the most widely-used aircraft in the world.
“All I can say is that the plane went through and passed the annual check-up and tests of CAAP (Civil Service Authority of the Philippines),” Jakosalem said in a text message.
He declined to comment on Osmeña’s statement, saying that the public should wait for an investigation on the incident. Inquirer with a report from Rappler.com and Correspondents Tweeny M. Malinao and Edison delos Angeles