Polish firm to assist in probe of helicopter crash

by Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 10 2014 12:04 PM | Updated as of Aug 10 2014 08:04 PM

MANILA - The Polish firm that supplied the Sokol helicopter that crashed in Marawi last Thursday has vowed to help the Philippine Air Force determine the cause of the accident.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya said yesterday aircraft manufacturer PZL-widnik S.A had been informed about the mishap, which injured two persons.

Canaya admitted that the investigation might take time. The helicopter is still in the crash site, he said.

“We are moving the craft to a secured place where investigators can further examine the (helicopter) parts for clues. I have no information yet where it will be moved,” he said.

“Efforts were underway to determine the damage to properties caused by the accident,” he added.

Canaya said the seven remaining Sokol helicopters in their inventory would remain grounded until the investigation is completed.

The helicopter crashed at 2:23 p.m., a few seconds after it took off at the 103rd Infantry Brigade headquarters in Marawi City.

The aircraft escorted another Sokol carrying Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

It was carrying 4th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, 4th Infantry Division Inspector-General Col. Alexander Macario, five staff members of Gazmin and four crew members, including two pilots.

Of the helicopter’s 11 passengers, only the gunner, Air Force S/Sgt. Darius Valdes, was hurt in the accident.

Also injured was Santiago Savedra, a civilian who happened to be in the area when the helicopter crashed.

The government bought eight Sokol combat utility helicopters from PZL-widnik S.A. for P2.8 billion.

The package included ground support equipment, spare parts, support services and training for crew and maintainers.

The first batch, which consisted of four helicopters, was delivered in February 2012 while the second batch, which consisted of two Sokols, arrived nine months later.

The final batch composed of two helicopters was delivered in February last year.