The search and rescue mission for the missing “Yellow Bee” Alouette chopper of Philippine Adventist Medical Aviation Services (PAMAS) has been halted since Monday, pending the delivery of new underwater search equipment.
Captain Dennis Rem Labay, commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) District Palawan, said PAMAS is looking for new equipment because the side scan sonar that was originally installed is no longer functioning correctly.
He noted that the device was deployed three times with no significant results.
“According the the team, the undercurrent in the suspected crash site is strong that’s why the sonar can not pick up anything. They said it seems like there is a stream in the specific area where they chopper is suspected to have crashed,” Labay told Palawan News in a telephone interview.
“But when they tried in another location, it’s ok so it was the diagnosis of the team that due to the strong current they can’t find anything,” he added.
He claimed that, while the operation has been halted, coast guard and Philippine Navy vessels are on standby in the area to assist PAMAS and resume the search.
“[But] I cannot exactly say when will the operation resume. It will depend on PAMAS when the new equipments arrive which will apparently come from the US,” Labay said.
He also mentioned that because two of the missing are American citizens, the U.S. Embassy has been assisting with the search.
“During the early stage of the operation, they have also sent aircrafts to assist in the aerial search in the area,” he said.
“Right now, however, the aerial search has been terminated because that is only good for the first few days of the incident considering that the suspected crash site is in the sea,” he added.
The missing helicopter, which is being operated by PAMAS as an air ambulance, went missing on March 1 while on its route to Brooke’s Point town after picking up a patient in Barangay Mangsee, Balabac.
Aboard the chopper were its pilot Captain Daniel Lui, nurse Janelle Adler, Kayrun Nesa Sahibad (patient) and her relatives Nastru Sahibad, and Sug Hamja.