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Robredo and 2 pilots bodies’ found

The bodies of Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo and two pilots were found morning of Tuesday, August 21, three days after their plane crashed off the coast of Masbate.

Piper Seneca plane with tail number RP-C4431 crashed off the coast of Masbate at around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, August 18. On it were DILG secretary Robredo and his aid Police Senior Inspector June Paolo Abrazado. The plane was commandeered by Capt. Jessup Bahinting and student pilot Kshitiz Chand, a Nepalese. Abrazado survived the crash and was rescued immediately after.

In a press briefing past 9 a.m. on Tuesday, August 21, Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas announced that the body of Robredo and the two pilots were found in the fuselage of the crashed plane.

Roxas reported that Matt Reed, a British tech diver, and his team found the plane’s fuselage 800 meters from shore at the depth 0f 180 feet. Roxas added that at 8:15 a.m., it was confirmed that one of the bodies found was Robredo’s. By 8:30 a.m., his body was brought to surface and retrieved by the Coast Guard.

Retrieval operations continued for the two pilots as of this time. The pilots’ bodies are said to be lodged in the deeper parts of the fuselage which makes it hard for tech divers to retrieve. Also, Roxas said that the plane’s fuselage laid upside-down and it was dangerous for the retrieval teams to disturb as it may further roll deeper in the water.

Retrieval operations are now ongoing for the remains of Bahinting and Chand as of posting time.

The Crash

Piper Seneca plane with tail number RP-C4431 left Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) at around 3:06 p.m. on August 18. The plane, which carried Robredo and his aide Abrazado, was piloted by Bahinting and Chand and was en-route to Naga City from Cebu when it had trouble with one of its propellers.

The plane was owned by Aviatour Air, an aviation company which had Bahinting as Chairman and CEO. Originally, Robredo was to take a flight from Cebu but instead opted to get a private flight to Naga to catch the awarding of his daughter’s sports event. Minutes before the crash, Robredo was able to call his wife.

At 3:30 p.m., Abrazado, Robredo’s aide, texted Col. Ritchie Posadas, aviation security chief of MCIA that the plane was having trouble with one of its propellers and was heading back to Cebu. At around 4:20 p.m., it became known that the plane needed to make an emergency landing in Masbate airport.

The plane was making its landing approach to Masbate airport when it undershot the runway at around 4:30 p.m. The plane crashed about half a kilometer away from the runway in the waters of Brgy. Ibingan, Masbate. It was reported that the plane was flying on Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), which means that the pilots were trying to land the plane without or with limited visual reference and relied mainly on their instruments.

Reports indicated that witnesses saw the plane wobbling on its approach to land and then went belly-up upon crashing in the water.

Abrazado, Robredo’s aide, survived and was rescued by a passing fisherman minutes after the crash. He was immediately rushed to the nearest hospital. He sustained some injuries and went under observation.

Search and rescue efforts by the local government of Masbate started immediately at around 5:00 p.m.

Search and Rescue

The local government of Masbate immediately deployed search and rescue teams on the day of the crash. Local fishermen also joined in the search which continued until 11:30 p.m. of Saturday.

Search and rescue operations were continued at 5:00 a.m. of Sunday, August 19. Additional search and rescue teams from the Philippine Navy, Coast Guard, the police, and local government were dispatched. The Philippine Air Force deployed at least five helicopters and has a C-130 plane on standby. Medical personnel were also on standby at the command post on the coast near the crash site.

Abrazado, despite his injuries, was able to give testimonies and was able to assist in looking for Robredo and the two missing pilots.

President Benigno Aquino III flew in to Masbate to oversee the search and rescue. He along with other government officials stayed in Masbate overnight. DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas was also at the site and continually gave updates on the search and rescue efforts.

Sonar equipment was also brought in to locate the sunken plane which was believed to have sunk at around 200 feet underwater. SCUBA Divers and technical divers from the Coastguard, Navy, and some volunteers conducted the search.

Upon the discovery of the plane’s fuselage the morning of August 21, Roxas said that 17 sea vessels, 9 aircraft, and around 600 people were involved in the search and rescue operations. It took over two days before Robredo, Bahinting, and Chand were found.