Two Philippine police generals ‘critical’ after helicopter crash

Top police chief and five others on board were also injured when the aircraft hit a power cable upon takeoff.

Helicopter - Philippines
The helicopter was taking off from a police compound south of metro Manila when the accident happened [Aaron Favila/AP]

A helicopter carrying the Philippines’ top police chief and seven other people crashed on Thursday after hitting a power cable on takeoff, critically injuring two of the police generals on board.

General Archie Francisco Gamboa was among the people pulled from the wreckage of the two-year-old Bell 429.

Gamboa was injured in the shoulder and right hand but flashed a thumbs-up signalling that he was “OK”, as he was being wheeled to an ambulance that took him to a Manila hospital.

Two of Gamboa’s companions, Director for Intelligence Major General Mariel Magaway, and Director for Comptrollership Major General Jose Ma Victor Ramos, however, were in “critical condition” in another hospital, according to police spokesman, Major General Benigno Durana Jr.

“They are being well taken care of by our doctors based in Laguna and as soon as their condition stabilises, they will be moved to the nearest hospital,” he told reporters in Manila.

The rest of the passengers and crew were in stable condition, Durana added.

The helicopter was taking off from a police compound in a rural village in San Pedro city in Laguna province south of Manila after a meeting with local police officials.

The aircraft whipped up a thick cloud of dust as it took off, hit a power cable then crashed on a road near some houses, witness Glenda Garcia told the Associated Press.

“It was really loud and we ran away in fear because we thought the helicopter would move out of control in a circle and hit us,” Garcia said, adding that power in her village was out because of the crash.

There were no reports of people on the ground being hurt and damage was minimal. A motorcycle was damaged and part of the helicopter’s rotor blades hit the roof of a house, Garcia and police officials said.

Gamboa temporarily took over the national police force in October after his predecessor retired early after being linked to illegal drugs.

He also figured in another controversy when it was revealed that one of the top officials under his command has been included in the list of police officers allegedly linked to the drug trade.

The 200,000-strong police force has enforced an anti-drug crackdown ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte shortly after he took office in mid-2016. The crackdown has left thousands of mostly petty drug suspects dead in a bloody campaign that has alarmed Western governments and human rights groups.

Duterte formally designated Gamboa as the chief of police force last month.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies