MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – A plane carrying Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo crashed on its way to the Masbate airport, authorities confirmed Saturday, August 18.
Police Superintendent Rodolfo Abella, chief of police of Masbate City, confirmed to Rappler the plane, a Piper Seneca bound for Naga from Cebu, crashed at sea, hundreds of meters away from the Masbate airport, at 4:30 p.m.
Abella said the plane crashed 200 meters off the shoreline of Barangay Dinga.
According to Army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc, Army operatives involved in the rescue effort said Robredo's aide, Police Inspector Jun Abrasado, who was with him on the plane, was rescued from the sea.
"Nabali ang isang pakpak ng eroplano," Abrasado told rescuers, according to Cabunoc. (One of the plane's wings broke off.)
Cabunoc added that after he was rescued, Abrasado joined the team to look for Robredo and the pilots. But he was later convinced to go ashore.
Authorities said the plane encountered problems as soon as it took off from Cebu.
ABS-CBN News Channel said a close friend of the Robredo family, Julian Lavadia, said that Robredo called his wife, Leni, before the crash and told her that one of the plane's propellers had stopped working.
Search and rescue
Search and rescue operations for Robredo and his companions being conducted by Masbate officials have been suspended for the night due to poor visibility, a Masbate disaster official, Ret Gen Darius Tuazon, said.
But the Philippine Coast Guard said its own rescue operations will continue. The US government has also offered to help.
DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno deferred to officials in the province on the decision to continue or suspend search and rescue operations.
Puno earlier told dzMM he was with Robredo in Cebu during a public forum and awarding ceremonies. Robredo left Cebu at around 3 p.m., Puno said.
According to Puno, the plane is apparently owned by the pilot himself and that the co-pilot is a Nepalese. It carried 4 passengers - Robredo, Abrazado and the two pilots.
Puno said Robredo arrived in Cebu Saturday morning on board the same Piper Seneca plane that crashed near the Masbate airport.
Robredo's daughter told Rappler that their family was planning to spend the weekend in Naga. - Rappler.com