Search for missing Cessna plane with 6 passengers now at 'full scale'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 25) — The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has intensified the search in Isabela for the missing Cessna plane with six people on board, after authorities failed to contact the aircraft.

The Cagayan Valley Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) confirmed to CNN Philippines that the pilot is Capt. Eleazar Mark Joven.

In a Facebook post, the Cagayan Provincial Information Office also identified one of the passengers as Josefa Perla Espana.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Anna May Kamatoy said her two children, a nephew, her brother Val Kamatoy, and a female passenger boarded the missing Cessna 206 plane, identified by CAAP as RPC1174.

Kamatoy said her family was going to Maconacon to attend the funeral of Val's father-in-law.

She added that five of her relatives, who traveled first around noon, arrived safely in Maconacon.

However, one of them said they already experienced turbulence during their flight.

"Nagtataka nga ako kung bakit sinugod pa ng eroplano. Sabi ng kapatid ko may turbulence na [sa kanilang biyahe], paparating na 'yung bagyo at mahangin na daw," Kamatoy said.

[Translations: I was wondering why the plane took off when my other sibling already said they encountered turbulence during their flight, that the storm is coming and the wind is getting strong.]

On Tuesday, the aircraft left Cauayan Airport at 2:15 p.m. and was expected to land at Maconacon Airport at 2:45 p.m.

The air traffic controller last contacted the plane at 2:19 p.m. within the vicinity of Naguillian Bridge.

Kamatoy said the last update she had was from a Facebook video post of her son Mark aboard the aircraft around 2:30 p.m.

In an interview on "News Night," Kamatoy said she and her sister-in-law in Maconacon have yet to receive any update from authorities.

"Gusto ko lang mahanap 'yung pamilya ko as soon as possible," she added. "Ang hirap kasi ng na more than 24 hours akong naghihintay kung anong balita."

[Translation: I just want my family to be found as soon as possible. It's difficult to wait for more than 24 hours for the news about them.]

CAAP said the alert level was raised to "Distress Phase" at 4:00 p.m. and search and rescue was initiated after the communication search failed.

According to CAAP, an aircraft in distress means it is in "a condition of being threatened by serious and/or imminent danger and of requiring immediate assistance."

The RDRRMC on Wednesday said the phone of one of the passengers was located within a 20-kilometer radius from a cell site in Maconacon.

A telecommunication provider tracked the number after a family member contacted one of the passengers.

According to the local disaster response team, the phone rang but no one responded.

Col. Ma. Conseulo Castillo, Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesperson, told CNN Philippines that the PAF has two helicopters on standby for the search and rescue operation.

In a statement, Col. Sadiri Tabutol, PAF Tactical Operations Group 2 commander, said the search and rescue operation will resume once the weather improves.

Meanwhile, the military and local police officers are conducting a ground search in Maconacon, Isabela.

Tabutol earlier said the PAF will dispatch drones in Barangay Sapinit and Barangay Dicambangan in Divilacan, Isabela.

According to soldiers assigned near the area, these are the places where the plane may have crashed.

The PAF said bad weather may have caused the disappearance of the Cessna plane.

The local disaster response team also said they have received reports of residents hearing a loud sound that appeared to be from an airplane engine near Susong Dalaga in Diffun, Quirino and another report of an explosion within Barangay Sapinit.

The RDRRMC stressed that the reports they have received have yet to be confirmed.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Stanley Gajete contributed to this report.