3 killed as 2 planes collide over Bulacan

3 killed as 2 planes collide over Bulacan
By Tarra Quismundo, Carmela Reyes
Central Luzon Desk
Last updated 05:09am (Mla time) 07/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Two light planes collided in the air during training flights over Bulacan province Sunday afternoon, killing the two pilot-trainees and an instructor, officials of the Air Transportation Office (ATO) said Sunday.


Reports reaching the ATO’s Operations Center (OpCen) in Manila said two Cessna planes crashed into each other near the Plaridel Airport in Barangay Ligas, Malolos City, at around 1 p.m. Sunday.


“They were two planes from two different pilot schools based in Manila but training at the Plaridel airport. They collided midair… We are now finding out the probable cause but, based on experience, maybe the pilots experienced blind spots and they did not see each other,” said ATO chief Nilo Jatico by phone from Ozamis City.


Supt. Manuel Lukban, Malolos police chief, identified the fatalities as Reena Salve, 18, pilot of the two-seater Cessna plane with body marking RP 8696; Patrick Philip Teruel, pilot of the other Cessna plane with body marking RP 2679 and Varsha Gopinanth, 25, a student pilot flying with Teruel.


Lukban said Salve and Gopinanth were Indians.


He said the two planes took off from an airfield in Plaridel town and were bound for Metro Manila when they collided and crashed in Purok Ilang-Ilang, Barangay Ligas, at 12:55 p.m.


Glicero Garcia, a councilman of Ligas, said he and his neighbors saw the planes flying above a school building in the village. He said they suspected the planes were experiencing trouble from the unusual sound of their engines.


Garcia said the wings of the planes touched before they crashed in a ricefield some 250 meters from the school.


He said the planes just missed the house of Rodolfo Principe, another village councilman.


Garcia said they believed the pilots purposely avoided crashing into the cluster of houses and tried to land in the ricefield.


Jatico said the planes were close to the airport and were possibly on approach for touch-and-go landings when the incident happened.


“It’s a simple aircraft where you have to look out and see if another plane is already close, just like you would when driving a car,” said Jatico.


ATO Accident Investigation Board chief Capt. Jose Saplan said two air crash investigators from the AIB had been sent to the site.


“Allegedly, they were on training flights and collided midair. But we don’t know why it happened and we will investigate that,” Saplan said.


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