A Philippine Air Force UH-1H gunnery sergeant trains his machine gun over a jungle in the southern province of Sulu. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 1, 2011) – An ageing Philippine Air Force UH-1H helicopter crashed on Saturday while transporting supplies to soldiers fighting Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern province of Sulu, killing three crewmen, officials said.
Officials said one crewman was seriously injured in the crash.
The chopper, one of two which took off from a military base in Sulu, lost power and crashed while on a resupply mission, said Army Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command.
“The UH-1H aircraft encountered lost of engine power and the pilots initiated emergency landing. The aircraft hit hard on the ground and rolled down a hill. The aircraft was totally wrecked and there were three aircrew fatalities and one injured,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.
Cabangbang said troops, backed by two MG-520 attack choppers, secured the crash site and transported the cadavers and the wounded back to the military base in the capital town of Jolo.
The military did not release the names of the victims until their families were informed of the tragedy.
In April this year, five crewmen of a Philippine Air Force UH-1H chopper were also injured after it crashed during a routine mission in Taytay town in Rizal province in Luzon Island.
And in 2007, at least 8 people were killed and three others injured after another UH-1H helicopter crashed into a busy street in Lapu-Lapu City in Mactan Island in Cebu province. Among the dead were passengers of a motorcycle taxis and a helicopter crew man.
Most of military’s UH-1H were refurbished from the United States and had been used during the Viet Nam war.
Just this year, US Ambassador Harry Thomas, Jr turned over five refurbished UH-1H choppers to the Philippine Air Force as part of Washington’s long-term commitment to assist the Philippine military’s modernization program.
The aircrafts were final installment of helicopters pledged for the Philippines by former President George W. Bush under the Excess Defense Articles program.
In 2007, the US also handed over ten UH-1H helicopters to the Philippines. The US said all choppers were refurbished by US Helicopter/BellAero under the Foreign Military Financing program. (Mindanao Examiner)