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Helicopter flying to pick up Philippine police chief crashes

February 21, 2022 GMT

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine police helicopter crashed Monday as it was flying to pick up the country’s police chief on a resort island, killing a crew member and injuring the two pilots, officials said.

The Airbus H125 helicopter went missing after taking off from Manila and was found two hours later to have crashed in Quezon province, police officials said.

Police and firefighters reached the crash site and rescued the pilot and co-pilot, who were taken to a hospital with injuries, but the third crew member was pinned in the wreckage and died while rescuers were trying to revive him, they said.

The single-engine helicopter was flying to Balesin island, an upscale beach and tropical resort in Quezon, to pick up national police chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos and his companions. Carlos was scheduled to fly back to Manila on a commercial flight to attend a flag-raising ceremony, but the flight became unavailable and the police aviation unit offered to take him by helicopter, police spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said.

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Carlos visited the two injured pilots at the hospital and one of them told him that they were maneuvering to land in clear weather “when suddenly a strong gust of wind lashed them and caused the helicopter to lose control,” Fajardo told reporters.

Police officials ordered the grounding of five other H125 helicopters while the crash is being investigated. Despite financial constraints, the 225,000-member police force has a small fleet of helicopters.

Two years ago, a helicopter carrying then-national police chief Archie Francisco Gamboa and three other generals crashed shortly after taking off from San Pedro city in Laguna province near Manila. Gamboa and other passengers and crew on board survived with injuries, but a two-star general died from his injuries after several months.