PNP Chief Gamboa safe, two generals in critical condition

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 5) — Philippine National Police chief General Archie Gamboa, his spokesperson Lt.. Col. Bernard Banac and four others are safe, but two police generals are in critical condition after their chopper crashed Thursday morning in a residential area in Laguna.

Acting PNP spokesperson Maj. Gen Bong Durana said PNP comptrollership chief Maj. Gen. Joevic Ramos and PNP intelligence director Maj. Gen Mariel Magaway are in "unstable" condition and that the next 48 hours would be critical for them.

"Kaya nga po bugbugin po natin ng panalangin ang kanilang paggaling," Durana told reporters.

[Translation: That's why we're bombarding the heavens with prayers for their recovery.]

Magaway has been transferred to the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa, while Ramos remains in the intensive care unit of Unihealth Southwoods Hospital in Laguna.

Ramos lost more than 20 percent of his blood, has traumatic brain injury, and has fractures in his skull, spine and leg.

Top cop turned senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, who visited Gamboa at the hospital, said the PNP chief seems fine, aside from a swollen right hand, minor injuries on the face and abrasions on the body. Banac is also mostly unscathed, except for some bruises in the face.

While Magaway and Ramos are still in the hospital, Brig. Gen. Ronnie Olay is taking charge of the PNP comptrollership and Brig. Gen. Jesus Cambay will head the police's intelligence office. Durana, meanwhile, temporarily reprises his role as police spokesperson as Banac recovers.

PNP deputy chief for administration, Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, will be officer-in-charge as Gamboa recovers from a helicopter crash, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told CNN Philippines Thursday.

The Bell 429 chopper carrying the four PNP officials, Gamboa's aide Capt. Kevin Gayramara, pilot Lt. Col. Ruel Zalatar, co-pilot Lt. Col Rico Macawili, and technician Senior Master Sgt. Louie Estona crashed in San Pedro, Laguna minutes after they took off past 8 a.m.

The officials had attended an event to turnover recovered impounded vehicles in the Laperal Compound in San Pedro.

Durana said Gamboa sustained wounds on his arm, while Banac has wounds on his face. He adds he was able to talk to the chopper crew and Gamboa's aide-de-camp.

The acting spokesperson said Gamboa, who is recovering in St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig City, told him he is worried about his co-passengers.

"Ang concern ni Chief PNP ngayon ay 'yung safety and complete recovery ng iba pa niyang kasamahan," he said.

[Translation: The concern of the chief PNP is the safety and complete recovery of his colleagues.]

In a video shared to police reporters, Gamboa said from his hospital bed that he intends to go back to work on Monday.

The newly-acquired ₱435-million Bell 429 chopper got caught on a high-tension wire due to limited visibility because of the dust whipped up as the helicopter took off.

"'Yung field na helipad namin medyo pag-flight niya, nag-zero visibility. 'Yung chopper talagang sobrang alikabok, tumama po sa wires. 'Yun ang reason kaya bumagsak ang ating chopper ," PNP-Highway Patrol Group (HPG) Chief Col. Wilson Doromal told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: In the area of the helipad, they suddenly couldn't see much. The chopper was too dusty, it hit the wires that led to the crash.]

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the initial police report corroborate the accounts of the passengers, urging the public to refrain from speculating about the incident.

PNP and the Interior Department are conducting investigations into the incident.

CNN Philippines' Lara Tan, Xave Gregorio, David Santos and Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.