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Fisherman finds helmet of missing Air Force pilot Ybanez off Sombrero Island

The fisherman who found the helmet of one of two pilots of the OV-10 Bronco that went down off Palawan two weeks ago turns it over to authorities. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA/PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines -- (UPDATE - 7:27 p.m.) A fisherman has found a pilot's helmet confirmed to be that of Air Force pilot Major Jonathan Ybanez, who remains missing with another pilot after their plane crashed off Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, in mid-June. 

Ybanez's brother, Frederick, an Air Force seargeant, said the helmet was found Friday.

"Kahapon nakita ng fisherman sa may Sombrero Island, Barangay Aborlan ang pilot's helmet ni Atan (Jonathan's nickname)," Frederick said in a message.

He called the find "a good sign," adding their family was "still hoping for the best."

Earlier, Frederick, who has joined the search, said they continue to hope Jonathan and 1st Lieutenant Abner Trust Nacion managed to eject before the plane went down.

Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol, spokesman of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), on Saturday said a local fisherman saw the helmet floating in the ocean on Friday, about two miles south of Sombrero Island in Palawan. The helmet was turned over to authorities and was confirmed to be the one helmets used by one of the two missing pilots.

Okol did not say if the recovery of the helmet suggests that either or both of the missing pilots were able to eject from aircraft. Earlier reports said there was a possibility that they had been trapped inside the cockpit of their OV10 Bronco 630, which is also still missing.

A "Joint Task Force Bronco" has been searching for the aircraft and its pilots for going on two weeks.

A search team has been using sonar to scour the seas around the last known location of the aircraft, taking into consideration the sea currents that could have caused the plane to drift.

At the same time, Okol said, the coastlines of Barangay San Rafael up to Barangay Gagogan and the nearby islands are being scoured by the personnel of 570th Composite Tactical Wing based in Puerto Princesa City. Personnel from the Naval Special Operations Group are conducting surface searches around the vicinity.

Shell Philippines is also backing up the search operations with a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, loaned from its Malampaya perations.

Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz assured that "we will pursue the search for the wreckage as it will provide the investigators the evidence to ascertain the cause of the crash, and eventually, the fate of the pilots."

"JTF Bronco will continue with the search and rescue operations south of the suspected crash site down to the Rasa Island today (Saturday). Underwater camera equipment of the Department of Science and Technology, and Navy and Coast Guard vessels with side-scanning sonar will assist in the search."