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SAN PEDRO, Philippines (AP) – A helicopter carrying the Philippine national police chief and seven other people crashed after hitting a power cable on takeoff Thursday, critically injuring two other generals on board. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa and the others were pulled from the wreckage by police officers on a village road in San Pedro city in Laguna province, south of Manila. Gamboa was injured in the shoulder and right arm but flashed a thumbs-up and said, “I’m OK” while being wheeled to an ambulance.
In a video shown by the DZMM network, Gamboa later said from his hospital bed that he would report back to work on Monday and asked for prayers for those who remained hospitalized. Two passengers – Maj. Gen. Mariel Magaway and Maj. Gen. Jose Ma. Victor Ramos – were in critical condition, while the rest, including the police spokesman and the police flight crew, were in stable condition, police Maj. Gen. Benigno Durana Jr. told reporters.
The aircraft took off from a police compound in Laguna and hit a power cable before crashing onto a road near houses, witness Glenda Garcia said. “It was really loud and we ran away in fear because we thought the helicopter would move out of control in a circle and hit us,” Garcia said, adding that power in her village was cut due to the crash. No one on the ground were hurt by the crash.
Part of a rotor blade hit the roof of a house, Garcia and police officials said. TV video showed the white Bell 429 helicopter resting on its left its side, with men scrambling to put out a small fire in one part of the wreckage and pull out the passengers and flight crew. Gamboa sat on the right side of the chopper, police said. The group had flown to the area to inspect vehicles seized by highway patrol officers for various violations. They were heading to a police camp for meetings when the helicopter crashed, police said. Other police helicopters were grounded temporarily for inspections after the crash, police said. Gamboa took over the national police force in October when his predecessor retired early after being linked to illegal drugs. The 200,000-strong police force has enforced President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown, which has left thousands of mostly petty drug suspects dead in a campaign that has alarmed Western governments and human rights groups.