Rescuers have confirmed four people died after the Cessna 340 plane they were in crashed on Mayon volcano at the weekend, officials said Thursday.
The victims, including two Australians, were on board the plane that went missing Saturday morning shortly after taking off for Manila from Bicol International Airport in Albay province, several kilometers from the Mayon volcano.
Carlos Baldo, mayor of Camalig municipality, which overlaps the crash site, said a search and rescue team reached the wreckage on Wednesday and confirmed there were no survivors.
“We found the site, there were no signs of life,” Baldo told a news conference on Thursday.
Baldo said 179 people were involved in the operation to carry the bodies down the steep slopes of the volcano.
They hoped to arrive at the base of the mountain by Thursday evening.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said the plane’s wreckage was on the western side of the volcano, about 3,500 to 4,000 feet above sea level.
“It’s very difficult terrain,” said Albay disaster officer Cedric Daep, warning the retrieval operation could take longer than a day.
“It’s steep and there are ridges where only one person can climb at a time.”
Manila-based Energy Development Corp. said previously that it owned the plane. The Australians were technical consultants for the renewable energy company.
“Our heartfelt sympathies go to their families and friends during this difficult time,” company president Richard Tantoco said in a statement.
The wreckage was spotted on Sunday, but rain, clouds and the risk of a volcanic eruption hampered efforts to reach the crash site.
A rescue team, including veteran mountaineers, began making the steep climb on foot on Tuesday. With AFP
Eric Apolonio, spokesperson of the CAAP, said the team began their mission from a designated Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) radar station and was assisted by a local guide who is familiar with a safer, easier path to the wreckage site.
“Once extrication is completed, the bodies of the victims will be dropped off at the incident command post in Brgy. Anoling, Camalig before they are transported to a Scene of the Crime Operation (SOCO) lab,” Apolonio said.
The fatalities were Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam, both Australian nationals; pilot Rufino James Crisostomo Jr., and crew member Joel Martin.
“On behalf of the Australian Government, I’d like to extend my deepest sympathy to the families of the two men, Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam, both from Adelaide, my hometown, as well as the Filipino nationals involved,” said Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
The Office of the Australian Prime Minister also expressed its sympathy, saying the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been providing support to the victims’ families.
The latest crash occurred more than three weeks following the disappearance of another Cessna plane with six persons on board that went missing in Isabela province.