Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel aboard a multi-role response vessel assisting in the search spotted fragments of debris from the helicopter thought to have crashed in the waters around Balabac, but no sign of the passengers.

According to PCG District Palawan commander Capt. Dennis Rem Labay, when BRP Malabrigo (MRRV 4402) arrived in the vicinity of Lumbucan Island this morning, March 2, it noticed smaller pieces of debris, one of which seemed to be a fire extinguisher canister typically used in aircraft.

“As of this morning, sunrise, mga aroud 5 a.m., nandoon na yong vessel natin, yong BRP Malabrigo, and upon arrival niya sa area, mayroon na siyang nakitang mga debris. Hindi naman malalaki pero one particular item na nakita niya is parang a form of fire extinguisher na usually ginagamit sa mga aircraft—yong canister na ano. I’m not sure kung na pick up nila yong debris, pero nabasa nila kung anong nakasulat doon,” Labay said.

“Right now, nandoon sila sa vicinity, yong last known position na as of yesterday na report about sa chopper, sa vicinity ng Lumbucan Island. Kung mayroon tayong ganun, so let’s assume na nag-crash talaga yong chopper. Wala pa kaming balita about any survivor. Let’s hope na mayroong survivor doon sa accident,” he added.

Labay said the search area is wide, but BRP Malabrigo will continue to look for the passengers of the Alouette helicopter identified as pilot Daniel Lui, nurse Janelle Adler (American national), Kayrun Nesa Sahibad (patient), Nastru Sahibad, and Sug Hamja.

The helicopter went missing on March 1 after leaving Mangsee, an island village in Balabac, around 9 a.m. to transfer patient Sahibad to the Southern Palawan Provincial Hospital in Brooke’s Point for treatment for stomach problems. (with a report from R. Rodriguez)