Search for Robredo suspended until Monday
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Diving and aerial search and rescue operations for Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and his two companions have been suspended again for the night and will resume on the morning of Monday, August 20.
Transportation Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas said, however, that search on the surface of the waters off Masbate will continue.
After scouring the portion of the sea where Robredo's ill-fated Piper Seneca plane crashed into Saturday, one of the divers managed to find the flight plan of the aircraft.
The retrieval of the flight plan will hopefully allow rescuers to track the position of the wrecked plane on the seabed.
On Monday, the divers plan to go deeper (250 to 300 feet) with the help of tri-mix gas for technical diving provided by a local scuba operator which heeded Roxas' call for help.
So far, only police inspector Jun Abrasado, Robredo's aide, has survived the crash.
Search and rescue operations suspended
Roxas announced at 6 p.m. the suspension of diving and aerial search via his official Twitter account.
Diving and air SaR suspended for the evening and to resume tmrw am. Thanks to scuba nation for ur inputs re helium and trimix... (2/4)— Mar Roxas (@MARoxas) August 19, 2012
The Transportation Secretary -- who is coordinating the operation on the ground from Masbate -- asked the nation to continue praying for the successful rescue of Robredo, who is now missing for over 24 hours.
After calling out for help on social media, Roxas secured the delivery of an undetermined amount of mixed gas for technical diving from the Scuba Nation dive operator so the teams will be able to go as deep as 300 feet in search of the plane on Monday.
The Philippine Coast Guard also made available for the divers their nearest decompression chamber in Cebu.
Prior to that, the secretary had warned that it was too risky for the diver to go deeper than 40m, saying they might experience nitrogen narcosis and decompression sickness or "the bends."
Roxas also said that although the air and sea operations have been suspended, a sonar finder provided by Electronic Geophysical Survey (EGS) Philippines in Cebu will still keep tracking the crash site throughout the night.
Sonar uses sound propagation to navigate, communicate with or detect objects on or under the surface of the water.
Flight plan found
Around mid-afternoon, Roxas said that one of the divers recovered the aircraft's flight plan on a portion of the seabed more than 100 feet below the surface.
The Transportation Secretary first tweeted that the discovery was the "(first) more definitive sign of location" of the aircraft, and later said that the diver who retrieved the document confirmed it was alongside "tracks."
According to Roxas, this could mean that the fuselage of the aircraft might have dragged along the seabed and could be nearby.
The flight plan was the only item, apart from a portion of the plane's wing and its fuel tank, that has been recovered so far from the crash site off the coast of Masbate.
PNoy meets with sole survivor
Also on Sunday, President Benigno Aquino III met with Abrasado, who recounted to him what happened during the final moments inside the Piper Seneca.
Shortly after arriving in Masbate to oversee the search and rescue operations, Aquino visited the hospital where Abrasado is recovering from minor injuries.
Roxas later told the media what Abrasado recalled from the incident.
Robredo's aide-de-camp is so far the only survivor from the accident, as the secretary, pilot Jessup Bahinting, and Bahinting's student Kshitiz Chand are all still missing.
Aquino and Roxas both want to stay in Masbate alongside Robredo's brother, Butch, who insisted on delivering food to the search and rescue teams in spite of being partially blind and in obvious distress.
Although he initially refused to speak to reporters, Butch Robredo finally admitted that after 24 hours, his brother may no longer be alive.
Masses, vigils in Bicol, Manila
In his native Naga and all the Bicol region, people refuse to give up hope.
While masses were offered for Robredo's safe return and local authorities pleaded for the population to pray for his life, the DILG chief's supporters, relatives, and friends are still gathered at the secretary's residence in Naga.
At the same time, a prayer vigil resumed at the National Shrine of the Divine Child inside La Salle Greenhills in Mandaluyong City in Metro Manila.
- Rappler.com, with reports from Ayee Macaraig and Carmela Fonbuena
- Robredo family: We're bracing for worst
- Divers go deeper in search and rescue
- Sundown in Masbate and Robredo's brother
- 'We can’t lose Robredo’
- Daughter of ill-fated plane's pilot waits for 'miracle'
- Robredo brother: Dead or alive, I just want him found
- Diver recovers flight plan of Robredo plane
- Robredo aide recounts to Aquino what happened
- Technical divers can search for Robredo
- VLOG: Masbate somber but hopeful for Robredo rescue