CAMALIG, Albay Mayor Carlos “Caloy” Irwin Baldo Jr. has confirmed that the four passengers of the ill-fated Cessna plane, including two Australians, were found dead near the mouth of the Mayon Volcano in Albay.
“Nakita na po ang site, wala na pong nakitang buhay doon,” Baldo said during press conference.
He said rescuers saw the remains of four victims near the wreckage of the plane.
The four casualties are two Filipino crew – pilot Captain Rufino James Crisostomo Jr., mechanic Joel G Martin, Australian geothermal advisor Simon Chipperfield and Australian consultant Karthi Santhanam.
Cessna plane crash
The four victims are employees of the Energy Development Corporation, a renewable energy company of the Lopez Group.
“Our heartfelt sympathies go to their families and friends during this difficult time,” EDC president and chief operating officer Richard Tantoco said in a statement.
EDC’s company chopper, RPC 2080, went missing last Saturday after departing from Bicol International Airport.
On Sunday, the plane wreckage was spotted around 350 meters away from the volcano’s crater, some 6,500 feet above sea level. But rescuers could not immediately trek due to the heavy rains.
The wreckage was spotted on Sunday, but rain, clouds and the risk of a volcanic eruption hampered efforts to reach the crash site.
Rescue operation shifts to retrieval operation
Mayor Baldo, who coordinates the rescue teams, said they have shifted to a retrieval operation.
“Kahit napuntahan na po yun, hindi madaling ibaba,” Baldo said.
Around 180 people from local government units, volunteer professional mountaineers, and EDC’s emergency response teams are still embarking on a dangerous mission to retrieve the bodies down the steep slopes of the volcano.
Rescuers said the terrain near the mouth of the volcano is already steep.
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Dr. Cedric Daep, chief of the Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), said the manner of retrieval still considered several factors, including the weather, the Mayon situation, and the pacing of the responders.
They hoped to arrive at the base of the mountain by Thursday evening.
“It is with the deepest gratitude that we thank the tireless efforts of all the rescuers from branches of government, civilian volunteers, and EDC Emergency Response Teams from across the country,” the EDC said.