More than 200 rescuers were searching today for Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and his two pilots after their small plane crashed into the sea while attempting an emergency landing. An aide of Robredo made a dramatic escape from the doomed plane and was helping in the search, officials said. Dozens of divers scoured the sea while helicopters and ships crisscrossed in the effort. Troops and police searched along the coast and a US Navy plane flew over the area to help look for the wreckage.
The four-seat Piper Seneca took off yesterday from central Cebu city, where Robredo had met local officials, and was 30 minutes into the flight to his hometown of Naga city when one of two engines failed. The pilot and co-pilot scrambled to land in Masbate province but missed the runway by about half a mile, Transport Secretary Mar Roxas said. President Benigno Aquino III flew today with his defense chief and the heads of the national police and the military to Masbate, about 235 miles southeast of Manila, to oversee the US military-backed search. Only the tip of the right wing has been found so far, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.