Leyte Samar Daily Express
TACLOBAN CITY – Short of calling it as a hoax, the search operations for the reported missing plane in an upland village of Naval, Biliran was terminated yesterday afternoon, after rescuers found no traces of a plane crash.
This was confirmed by Col. Nedy Espulgar, commanding officer of the 19th Infantry Battalion, whose group of soldiers joined in the search of the reported missing private plane.
Espulgar, in a phone interview, said that the decision of the search group was arrived after they have concluded that there was no plane that crashed in the forested area of Barangay Imelda.
“We have decided to terminate the search operations as we concluded that there was no such incident. The group has search the area where the alleged plane crash incident happened and there was no indication of such,” Espulgar said.
The search team, he added, has not found any evidence or wreckage of the supposed plane that crashed in Imelda, eight kilometers away from the town proper.
“Rescuers confirmed that there’s no plane crash incident after a thorough aerial and ground survey,” said Biliran provincial disaster and risk reduction management officer Socronio Dacillo, Jr. in a mobile phone interview.
The rescue operation started Tuesday morning after some residents reported to Mayor Susan Parilla that they’ve seen a small plane crashed into a mountainous area. Witnesses also recounted that they have seen smokes from the crash site.
The search team, aside from soldiers of the 19th IB, was composed of mountaineers led by Naval Councilor Mario Opeña, local police and firemen and personnel from the Naval and Biliran disaster risk reduction management councils.
Mayor Parilla, in an earlier interview, said that there was no “fallen trees” in the area that could have indicated that there was a plane that fell down as revealed to her by the TOG team.
Parilla also said that nobody came up to her looking for a missing person.
Espulgar said that the team terminated their search at around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, just 15 minutes after they abandoned the supposed area where the plane reportedly crashed.
The alleged plane crash incident was reported to Mayor Parilla by Imelda village chief, Max Jutara. Jutara got the information from one of her residents, Maria Tambis.
Tambis claimed that she saw a plane that zoomed down to the forested area of their village and saw a bluish-colored flame followed by a loud explosion.
The reported crash site is estimated to be around 30 kilometers away from the town proper of Naval, the capital of Biliran province and adjacent to Culaba town.
Benlie Linde, operations officer of the Office of the Civil Defense regional office here, said that based on their coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, all planes that took off from various airports have been accounted for.
“No companies have claimed of missing planes. That strengthens our theory that the claim may not be true,” Linde said in a phone interview. However, the OCD said that they did not discount the accounts of witnesses.
BY JOEY A. GABIETA & SARWELL Q. MENIANO