USMC plane assists pilots of ditched relief heli

On 24 November, a US Marine Corps C-130 plane crew assisted the pilots of a helicopter engaged in disaster relief missions that ditched in Manila Bay, Philippines.

On 24 November, the crew of a US Marine Corps (USMC) C-130 Hercules transport plane was able to assist the pilots of a private helicopter engaged in disaster relief missions that ditched in Manila Bay, Philippines. According to reports, the helicopter had taken off from Caticlan after delivering a cargo of relief goods as part of efforts following Typhoon Haiyan, but crashed into Manila Bay off Obando, Bulacan.

The USMC crew were en route from Tacloban to Manila when the helicopter pilots issued a May Day call, Major Jason Kaufman, one of the pilots onboard the C-130, told the Inquirer. The survivors still had their radios, and the USMC crew were able to contact them, Kaufman explained, saying: “We flew our C-130 very low, at 200 ft above the waters, and we deployed our rafts.” The USMC crew then relayed the crash location to Villamor Air Base so a rescue mission could be launched. However, around half an hour after the rafts had been dropped, the pair, named as American Captain James Eagle and Captain Iren Dornier of Germany, were picked up by a local fishing boat and taken to the Philippine Coast Guard Station in Navotas.

Dornier and Eagle told ABS-CBN news that both engines of the BO-105 helicopter, operated by Aviation Enterprises, suddenly shut down during flight. After emitting the distress call, they jumped out of the aircraft before it hit the water. They said that when the C-130 arrived, they had already been swimming towards shore for around an hour and a half.

Eagle commented: “I was able to grab the radio. Luckily, there was a great coincidence that there were so many aircraft flying relief goods. They were monitoring the frequency and they were able to throw us a raft.”

The survivors were interviewed by local television news reporters – see below.