No deadline set for PNP chopper probe

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    INVESTIGATORS are not setting a deadline for the completion of the investigation on last Thursday’s crash of a PNP helicopter which injured police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa and seven others, including three more generals.

    “We are not setting an estimate (when the investigation will be completed) which, in the end, we may not be able meet,” said PNP deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar.

    Eleazar, the head the Special Investigation Task Group Bell 426, assured that they are conducting a thorough probe in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

    “Our challenge is to hasten it. We hope to complete the thorough investigation as soon as possible,” said Eleazar even as he assured that the result of the probe will be released to the public.

    Eleazar said the task force has so far completed gathering all debris of the ill-fated Bell 426 helicopter on Saturday night. The group will convene for the third time today.

    “It’s so early for us to give findings or conclusion because we are still in the process of collating information and eveidence. As of now, we cannot yet say when we can finish the investigation,” said Eleazar.

    Eleazar said they were already able to gather statements of people who witnessed the crash of the helicopter shortly after it take off from a vacant lot in San Pedro town where Gamboa inspected recovered carnapped vehicles.

    Official reports have initially said that dust cloud caused poor visibility during the take off, which caused the helicopter to hit a high-tension wire.

    Aside from Gamboa, also injured during the accident were PNP director for comptrollership Maj. Gen. Jose Maria Ramos, PNP director for intelligence Maj. Gen. Mariel Magaway, PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, Gamboa’s aide Capt. Kevin Gayramara, pilot Roel Zalatar, co-pilot Lt. Col. Rico Macawili, and helicopter crew Senior Master Sergeant Luis Estona.

    Eleazar asked the public for continued prayers for Ramos and Magaway who are said to be still under close monitoring at the hospital. “We hope their condition will improve and finally hurdle this test,” he said.

    Eleazar said the investigation is focusing on three angles — airworthiness of the helicopter, pilot error and preparation of the landing site.

    While the helicopter was relatively new as it is just two years old, Eleazar said they have to establish if it was properly maintained. “We have to check its maintenance, review everything to see if it has airworthiness problem,” he said.

    “Second is pilot error, we’re always considering that. We want to know if they followed procedure and their condition at that time,” said Eleazar. He said the pilot had enough experience, noting he had been flying helicopters for 23 years already.

    “Another angle is landing site selection and preparation,” said Eleazar, noting that while fire trucks doused water on the site, the take off still caused dust cloud.