MANILA, Philippines – A Pampanga-based businessman and two companions were killed when the helicopter they were riding crashed into a fishpond in Malolos, Bulacan Thursday afternoon, police said.
According to a report by Nestor Torres in UNTV News and Rescue’s Ito ang Balita program, the victims were identified as businessman Liberato “Levy” Laus, his bodyguard Wilfran Esteban, and pilot Captain Everette “Eder” Coronel.
Laus, who headed the conglomerate Laus Group of Companies, was declared dead on arrival at the Bulacan Medical Center. Esteban died in the hospital.
Laus, 68, was a well-known personality in Pampanga. He was also the chairman emeritus of the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said the chopper was bound for San Fernando, Pampanga when it plunged into a fishpond in Barangay Anilao in Malolos at 12:47 p.m.
CAAP said the helicopter took off from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) General Aviation Hangar at 12:28 p.m.
The chopper, which bears the body number RP C8098, was owned and operated by LGC Air Transport.
An eye witness told UNTV News and Rescue team that prior to the crash, the helicopter seemed to be looking for a landing site around 12:45 p.m. He also recounted the moments when the ill-fated chopper plunged to the ground.
“Dumiretso na sila bumulusok, pagtama nila dyan sa palaisdaan sumabog ng malakas,” Gerry Borlongan said.
“‘Yung pinto nila naghiwa-hiwalay kasama yung mga sakay na tumilapon sa lakas ng pagsabog,” he added.
Other eye witnesses said the aircraft was billowing black smoke before it crashed.
The chopper’s wreckage was later found half-submerged in the pond.
CAAP investigators are now probing the possible cause of the incident.
“Sa ngayon ang ang ginagawa namin nire-recover na namin itong mga pieces ng aircraft. Sa ngayon hindi pa namin alam eh [sanhi ng insidente] pero nakapag-interview na kami ng mga witness,” said CAAP investigator Harry Faradero. – Robie de Guzman