Plane carrying Australian engineers ‘flying too low’ before crash

The aircraft, also carrying mechanic Joel Martin and flown by pilot Rufino James Crisostomo Jr, took off from Bicol International Airport at 6.43 am on Saturday.

Communication with the aircraft was lost three minutes after take-off and it was last seen five minutes after leaving the airport.

It is believed the six-seater plane was heading for the capital Manila following a visit by the engineers to the Bac-Man Geothermal Power Plant.

The state-run Philippine News Agency reported a search involving more than 200 personnel, 34 vehicles, 11 drones and four K9 dogs began soon after. However, it was confirmed on Friday all passengers and crew died in the crash.

The search for the aircraft was not without tragedy. Two Filipino soldiers involved were killed when they were ambushed by Marxist rebels in a market.

One of the last people to see the plane, a village chief, told Senior Inspector Hamor Laguilles, Chief of the Camalig fire station, the aircraft was “flying too low, (emitting) smoke and making a loud crumbling sound before it disappeared”.

MailOnline reported the wreckage was found near a permanent danger site designated as a “no-fly zone” around the volcano.

Foreign affairs minister Penny Wong told a press conference on Friday: “Sadly there are no survivors. On behalf of the Australian Government, I’d like to extend my deepest sympathy to the families of the two men, Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam, both from Adelaide, as well as the Filipino nationals involved.”

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