MANILA, Philippines – An air force helicopter crashed onto a busy street in a central Philippine city Saturday, killing at least seven people on the ground and one airman aboard the aircraft.
The Vietnam War-era UH-1H Huey helicopter pinned a motorcycle taxi, and its spinning rotors hit another on the street in the Pajo district of Lapu-Lapu city on the central island of Mactan, DZBB radio reported.
A radio reporter at the scene said the helicopter's rotors "chopped up" the taxi and dismembered its passengers.
An initial police report had said that seven people were killed, and that all four crew members on the aircraft were injured and brought to a hospital. Air force spokesman Lt. Col. Epifanio Panzo said one airman later died.
The three others suffered only minor injuries, hospital staff said.
The helicopter was preparing to land after a training flight when it crashed 1.25 miles from the Mactan air base, Panzo said. Crash investigators were sent to determine the cause.
Electric power lines were severed in the crash, causing a power outage in the area, the radio report said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who was campaigning for re-election in the area with another senatorial candidate Zosimo Paredes, said their vehicle passed by the crash site 30 seconds before the chopper went down. "It was very fast, very quick," he told reporters.
The military's more than 30 Hueys are the workhorses of the Philippine air force.
In one of the worst helicopter crashes in recent years, nine people aboard a Huey — including the government's chief volcanologist — died in April 2005 when it slammed into a steep ravine in the northern Philippines due to bad weather and the pilot's unfamiliarity with the terrain.