Date: February 4th, 1998
Type: DC-9
Registration: -
Operator: Cebu Pacific Air
Where: Claveria, Philippines
Report No.: Not Available
Report Date: -
Pages: -

This is not an accident investigation report.

CLAVERIA, Philippines - As rescuers struggled up steep mountain slopes toward the crash site, helicopter pilots said Tuesday they saw no signs of life in the scattered wreckage of a DC-9 aircraft with 104 people aboard.

In what appeared to be the worst plane crash in Philippine history, search helicopters on Tuesday found the wreckage of the Cebu Pacific Air jetliner near the summit of Mount Sumagaya, about 28 miles northeast of the plane's destination.

The plane had been missing since it failed to land Monday morning in the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro.

Cebu Pacific had announced Tuesday morning that at least 15 people had survived, quoting a local mayor who reported that villagers had spotted people at the crash site. But the mayor later said he was unable to confirm that any people were still alive.

``No survivor has been rescued,'' Claveria Mayor Antonio Calingin said.

Airline spokesman Larry Zurita said subsequent information received by the airline indicated that ``the initial report might not be true.''

Rescue helicopters were unable to land near the remote site because of the steep slope, and strong winds forced them to withdraw. The aerial rescue was later suspended because of darkness.

``We did not see any big portion of the plane and we assume that it exploded,'' said Col. Jacinto Ligot, commander of the rescue effort. ``We saw debris but we did not see any moving human beings or any people around.''

In a helicopter flight near the crash site, a crater in the side of the mountain looked as if it had been carved out by a meteor. Parts of the plane appeared to have slipped hundreds of feet down the mountain into the thick trees below.

Ground rescue teams, including fingerprint experts sent to identify bodies, also were forced to halt for the night after they were unable to find the wreckage in the thick vegetation, Ligot said.

He said helicopters would attempt to drop smoke bombs on Wednesday to guide rescuers to the site.

Air transportation officials said Tuesday the airplane was making a visual, not instrument, landing approach when it crashed because it had made an unscheduled stop at another airport to drop off a mechanic and supplies and therefore was not on a normal flight path.

The plane was carrying 99 passengers, including five children, and five crew when it disappeared. They included a Japanese, Swiss and Austrian, airline officials aid.

The Japanese, Toru Nagata, was a teacher for the Japan International Cooperation Agency, a Japanese government foreign assistance group, an agency official said.

The Swiss, Rene Werren, was identified as a project supervisor for the Swiss Contact Foundation.

In the plane's last radio contact, the pilot said he was 42 miles from the airport at an altitude of 11,500 feet and starting to descend. There was no indication that the plane was in trouble.

Cebu Pacific, which began operations in March 1996, is one of several new airlines established after the Philippine government deregulated the aviation industry.

Update added 5th February 1998 - No Philippines Crash Survivors Found

CLAVERIA, Philippines - Battling rain, snakes and dense jungle, rescuers finally reached the wreckage of a DC-9 airliner on a Philippine mountain today - but found no sign of the 104 people who had been aboard the plane.

The army team, which due to the remote location arrived nearly two days after the plane crashed, found pieces of seat cushions, scattered clothes and business cards at the edge of a deep ravine, said Col. Jacinto Ligot.

Rescuers will try to climb down the ravine to search for bodies and more wreckage, said Ligot, commander of the rescue effort. Pilots trying to lower rescuers to the crash site were hampered by strong winds. The twin-engine Cebu Pacific Air plane went down Monday nearly 30 miles northeast of its destination, Cagayan de Oro, a southern Philippine city on the island of Mindanao.

Ligot said 21 soldiers had reached the crash site near the peak of Mount Sumagaya, a steep 7,260-foot ridge. More than 100 others were en route. About 20 ambulances waited on a road at the foot of the mountain, as were some relatives, who wept when they heard rescuers had reached the site. Two communist rebel leaders offered in a radio interview to help in the rescue. Ligot said they would be allowed to join if they were unarmed.

The airplane was making a visual, not instrumental, landing approach when it disappeared, officials said. The plane had made an unscheduled stop at another airport and was not on its normal flight path from Manila.

The plane carried 99 passengers and five crew members when it disappeared over high mountains and deep ravines. The plane's last radio contact was with the Cagayan de Oro airport tower 15 minutes before it was due to land. In that call, the pilot said he was 40 miles from the airport and was starting to descend. There was no indication the plane was in trouble.