Plane wreckage still not found - Roxas
MASBATE CITY, Philippines (UPDATE) – Over 48 hours after the Masbate plane crash, the wreckage of the aircraft has not been found and the government is still on search and rescue mode for Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and two pilots. Divers, however, recovered what is believed to be debris from the plane, like glass from the cockpit and windshield.
In several press briefings on Monday, August 20, Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas said that divers are focusing on a one sq-km area at sea believed to be where Robredo’s plane is lying.
Asked at what point the government will switch to retrieval mode, Roxas said it was a decision that will have to be made based on protocol.
The Secretary did not explain why the government is still hopeful Robredo will be found alive. Roxas, however, said that President Benigno Aquino III’s involvement is beyond official.
“The President is emotionally engaged,” Roxas said. “To quote him, Secretary Jesse is not just an employee or colleague in government, not just a personal friend but like a comrade, really a companion, ready to be persecuted [by critics], be jailed if needed, together in all the advocacies being pushed for the good of the country.”
Aquino left Masbate Monday afternoon to brief the Robredo family in Naga. He then went to Manila to commemorate his father's death anniversary Tuesday.
'Skid marks not related to plane'
A remote operated vehicle from the US government is expected to arrive Tuesday. Roxas said the device will be able to augment the work of the divers because it can reach 1000 feet underwater.
On Monday, a team of 3 volunteer technical divers based in Malapascua, Cebu dived at a depth of about 210 feet underwater in the area believed to be the location of the wreckage.
The team -- composed of two Britons and a Filipino-American -- arrived here on Monday morning. Roxas said one of them, Matt Reed, had a special camera and he was able to take footage underwater. The video is being used to analyze the area and plan the divers' work for Tuesday.
A group of Philippine Navy divers also dived at the site, at about 250 feet.
In the 6pm press conference, Roxas said information from the two deep-sea dives indicated that the skid marks earlier found by divers do not appear to be related to the plane.
"The debris field is perpendicular to the skid marks. That is the reason why we are analyzing and it seems there is no relation to the plane. The skid marks are too regular and perpendicular. You would expect the debris field to be parallel but it's perpendicular to the skid marks. It's possible the skid marks have nothing to do with the ill-fated plane," Roxas told reporters.
The foreign divers will again join the search efforts on Tuesday, along with the Philippine navy and a group of civilian Koreans.
“They brought their own equipment, with the gas already mixed. So this is really a huge help,” Roxas told reporters early Monday.
Target area estimated
The Secretary clarified that no one has seen the wreckage of the plane yet but the target area was estimated based on the location of the flight plan retrieved at sea, as well as calculations based on the current, tide and wind.
Earlier, private divers on site told Rappler that the technical divers are in for a difficult time.
“With the current so strong, it’s going to be a tough search for the Navy guys. This is a race. The sooner they get to the water, the faster they can catch up. Hopefully, [the wreckage] stays. No one can tell, it’s possible it was swept again by the current,” said private diver Nathan Floro.
Floro said the reported current in the area is 3 knots. He described the diving work needed as a “very complicated process.”
More diving equipment arrived early on Monday from the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA) in Manila. The equipment includes helium tanks and other devices needed to blend trimix gas (nitrogen, oxygen, helium). Captain Matthew Caldwell of the PCGA is helping the divers in their work.
“Technical diving is one of the sports where you just can’t walk off the playing field when something goes wrong. You’re stuck there, you have to deal with it. That is where a lot of the training goes. There is a lot of work that goes into these dives, a lot of preparation,” Caldwell explained to Rappler.
Caldwell said technical divers can only stay underwater for 15 minutes, excluding the time for descent and ascent.
‘No signal from plane’
Roxas said Philippine and foreign authorities have also not picked up a signal yet from the plane’s electronic location transmitter.
“Usually, planes are required to have an electronic location transmitter so in case of accidents, a signal will be released. We haven’t detected that. We don’t want to speculate. It is possible the plane did not have a transmitter or the transmitter was just destroyed,” said Roxas – Rappler.com
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- ‘Robredo accident eye-opener for Masbate’
- Robredo family: We're bracing for worst
- Divers go deeper in search and rescue
- 'We can’t lose Robredo’
- Diver recovers flight plan of Robredo plane
- Robredo aide recounts to Aquino what happened
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