PAF’s Huey fleet grounded after Bukidnon crash

Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced yesterday the grounding of all UH-1H or Huey helicopters of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) following a crash in Bulonay, Bukidnon on Saturday that left seven persons dead.

“In accordance with established protocols, the PAF’s entire fleet of Hueys has been grounded and all units will be inspected,” Lorenzana said.

The grounding of the Hueys was aimed to achieve zero accidents in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, especially in the PAF, wherein an accident almost always results in the death of an aircraft’s crewmembers, Lorenzana said.

As this developed, the remains of the four airmen and three other passengers who died in the helicopter crash have been brought home.

The fatalities – pilot Lt. Col. Arnie Arroyo, co-pilot 2/Lt. Mark Anthony Caabay, Staff Sgt. Melvin Bersabi, Airman 1/C Stephen Agarrado, Sgt. Julius Saldova, and CAFGU active auxiliaries Jerry Ayocdo and Jhamel Sugalang – were honored for their sacrifices in the performance of duties on Sunday.

The remains of the four airmen – Agarrado, Arroyo, Bersabe and Caabay – arrived at the Brigadier General Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cagayan de Oro, according to Air Force public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Aristides Galang Jr.

PAF personnel, led by vice commander Maj. Gen. Florante Amano, held military honors during the arrival of the remains.

A mass was also held in honor of the fallen officers.

Galang said the remains of Caabay, Bersabi and Agarrado were transported to their respective hometowns while that of Arroyo’s would stay temporarily in Mactan before being brought to his hometown.

The remains of Saldova, an Army officer, and active auxiliaries Ayocdo and Sugalang have been transported to Bukidnon and Agusan del Sur.

The UH-1H helicopter was transporting supplies for the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion in Impasug-ong town near the boundary of Agusan del Sur when it figured in the accident.

The PAF has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the mishap.

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