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Two Aussies feared dead after plane crashes near volcano

Search teams in the Philippines are battling bad weather to find the crash site.

Search teams are battling through bad weather to find a plane that was carrying two Australian mining engineers when it crashed near the crater of a volcano in the Philippines.

An aerial photo has emerged of what is believed to be part of the wreckage of the Cessna RPC340 that lost contact with air traffic control just three minutes after taking off from Bicol International Airport in Albay on Saturday morning, The Advertiser reported.

Witnesses say the aircraft, which took off in moderate rain, was “flying too low”, emitting smoke and making a “loud crumbling sound” before it disappeared.

The wreckage of the plane in the Philippines (left) and search teams looking at a map (right).
A photo revealed the wreckage of the plane just a few hundred metres from an active volcano. Source: Facebook/Caloy Baldo

At the time it had been heading to Manila with four people on board including the pilot, mechanic and two passengers, Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam from South Australia.

It’s believed the engineers had been on a site visit at Bac-Man Geothermal Power Plant.

Those on board yet to be found

After an image revealed the debris hanging from a tree, the wreckage of the Cessna was eventually found more than 32 hours after it disappeared, according to the Mayor of Camalig.

Caloy Baldo says the aircraft reportedly crashed along the Anoling gulley, just 350 metres away from the crater of Mayon volcano, but those on board are yet to be found.

Simon Chipperfield (left) and Karthi Santhanam (right).
Search teams are yet to locate those onboard the flight including two Australian mining engineers, Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam. Source: LinkedIn

“Search and rescue operations are still in effect unless dead bodies are found, then it will be declared as search and retrieval operations,” Mayor Baldo wrote on Facebook.

While wet weather has hampered the visibility of ground searches, authorities are also dealing with fears that the volcano could erupt at any time.

“With augmentation support from national agencies, the team is set to closely coordinate with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, considering the risks posed by Mayon Volcano’s present Alert Level 2 status,” Mayor Baldo added.

Search crews preparing a stretcher (left) and walking through the jungle (right).
Search crews have been hampered by wet weather and fears the volcano will erupt at any time. Source: Facebook/Caloy Baldo

“The local government is expected to formulate protocols especially intended for said search and rescue/retrieval ops, along with the prioritisation of responder safety.”

Drones with thermal cameras and search and rescue dogs are also being used in the operation.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it is aware of reports that authorities lost contact with a light aircraft in the Philippines on Saturday 18 February 2023.

“The Australian Embassy is in contact with local authorities and DFAT officials are providing consular assistance to the families of two Australians reported to be missing,” a spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia in a statement.

“Our thoughts are with their families, friends and loved ones at this difficult time.”

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