4 killed in Nueva Vizcaya plane crash

MANILA, Philippines – Four people were killed in a plane crash in Nueva Vizcaya on Sunday, April 27, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The casualties were Leilani Naga and Melvin Simangan of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) under the DA, the plane’s pilot Philip Jubane and aircrew Christopher Evan Borja.

The 6-seater Beechcraft Baron jet plane was flying over Barangay Tayapa in Bagabag at around 2:50 pm on Sunday for a cloud seeding operation when it exploded mid-air, causing it to drop and crash into a corn field.

All aboard were instantly killed, according to an initial report submitted by BSWM Director Silvino Tejada.

The DA, in cooperation with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), will probe the cause of the explosion and will investigate the owner of the aircraft, Grand Aviators Aviation Corporation.

The incident has also prompted a DA review of the safety protocols of cloud seeding operations.

Performance of duty

 The DA conveyed its "sincerest sympathy and prayers to the families of Lei and Melvin and the aircrew who lost their lives in the crash.” 

“We honor Lei and Melvin for their dedicated service to the Filipino people. Lei and Melvin died as they performed their duty on a Sunday – a demonstration of great commitment to their work and to the farmers they took pride in serving,” DA Spokesperson Undersecretary Emerson Palad said in a statement.

DA officials are arranging the transport of the remains of the two government employees back to Manila, and said they will provide assistance to their families. A vigil and necrological serves at the BSWM Lopez Hall in Quezon City are being prepared.

Naga and Simangan were performing the cloud seeding operation to induce rainfall over Magat Dam. The lower water level of the dam, caused by the summer heat, has adversely affected farmers in the area who depend on the dam for the irrigation of their fields.

Cloud seeding is the process of spreading dry ice or silver iodide aerosols into the upper parts of clouds to try to simulate the precipitation process and thus form rain. – Pia Ranada/Rappler.com