Philippine police chief Archie Gamboa, top aides survive helicopter crash

Philippine National Police chief Archie Gamboa was conscious when pulled out of the wreckage. The helicopter crashed in San Pedro city, 40km south of Manila, early on March 5. PHOTOS: PNP.GOV.PH, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MANILA - A helicopter carrying the Philippines' top police official and his aides crashed at a police camp south of Manila early on Thursday (March 5).

General Archie Gamboa, head of the 191,000-strong Philippine National Police (PNP), survived. He was conscious when taken to a hospital, PNP Highway Patrol Group chief Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson Doromal told CNN Philippines.

The three other police generals with him, as well as a junior aide and the three helicopter crewmen, were also extricated from the crash site and taken to hospital. Two of the generals were reported to be "in critical condition".

Gen Gamboa had just finished inspecting a police compound where cars were being impounded in San Pedro city, in Laguna province, 40km south of Manila, and was heading to another meeting in another city when the crash occurred.

Lt-Col Doromal said the helicopter stirred a huge amount of dust as it was taking off, and then snagged an electric cable.

Witnesses said the twin-engine Bell 429, which was acquired just two years ago, swung violently before it crashed on its side, broke in two, and caught fire.

A video posted on Facebook by one of the reporters on the scene showed dozens of responders extricating one of those trapped inside the helicopter.

One police official said the ground where the helicopter landed, mostly soft soil, was apparently not drenched enough before the helicopter took off.

With Gen Gamboa were intelligence chief Major-General Mariel Magaway, chief comptroller Major-General Jovic Ramos and PNP spokesman Brigadier-General Bernard Banac.

A police statement said Maj-Gen Magaway and Maj-Gen Ramos were still unconscious as of noon.

"They are in critical condition, (but) they are being well taken cared off," Major-General Benigno Durana, the acting police spokesman, told reporters.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano, a former military chief, said in a radio interview that the relatively new helicopter helped ensure that no one died in the crash.

"The seatbelts were sturdy, with harnesses on both shoulders. Those helped for sure. (Gen Gamboa) wasn't thrown out of the helicopter," he said.

Gen Gamboa, 55, took the helm of the PNP in January.

Like his last two predecessors, he has vowed to continue enforcing President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal crackdown on the narcotics trade.

The drug war has stirred accusations of massive human rights violations, with over 5,000 suspects killed in police raids and by vigilantes since 2016.

Gen Gamboa has also pledged to focus on cleansing the PNP of corrupt officers.

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