“When you lie, we die. I stand with the medical community in honoring one of our fallen comrades in his battle with COVID-19. He was a frontliner who was fulfilling his line of duty.”
This was one of the final sentiments posted on Facebook by Dr. Cenover Nicandro “Nicko” Bautista—who was among the eight casualties of the fatal Lionair aircraft crash at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Sunday evening.
READ: 8 killed in NAIA plane crash
Dr. Bautista was alluding to a colleague who died after contracting the virus from a “lying” patient, one of the 12 doctors and medical frontliners claimed by the coronavirus disease that has forced the country to go into lockdown.
“And because of that one lie, one has lost his life, while 38 more were quarantined, and a lot more unknown,” his post continued.
Bautista was one of the frontliners at the Mandaluyong City Medical Center. He has an older sister who is also a physician and a frontliner.
In his last post, the 33-year-old doctor urged patients to declare their travel history and health status so they won't endanger the lives of people who help contain the deadly virus.
His sister, lead vocalist Ria Bautista of OPM rock band Paramita, took to Facebook to express her grief.
“I lost my brother on that flight. No words can describe how devastating it is to lose a family member in such a horrific way. How do you process something like this?” Bautista, who also said that her brother fought like a hero, shared with her 40,000 followers on Facebook.
The Office of the President Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila posted a message Sunday night:
"It is with extreme sadness that I inform you that PLM lost another one of its own while performing his sworn duty to save lives. Dr Nicko Bautista, a 2014 graduate of the PLM College of Medicine, died in a medical evacuation flight that crashed earlier tonight at NAIA airport en route to Haneda, Japan.
“Dr. Bautista is the 2nd PLM doctor that we lost in two weeks. Dr Israel Bactol died last week due to COVID 19 infection."
This developed as aviation authorities grounded the entire fleet of Lionair, Inc. Monday after two of its medical evacuation planes crashed in a span of seven months, killing 17 people aboard the two flights.
On Sunday, a Filipino medical mission team and two foreign nationals were killed while aboard a Westwind 1124A type-aircraft which caught fire while taking off from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 7:57 p.m.
The medical evacuation flight was to take two passengers and six crew members to Haneda in Japan, but the jet suddenly burst into flames and stopped just meters before the end of the runway.
An airport fire and rescue team doused the flames with chemical foam but none of the passengers survived.
The Palace has called for a thorough investigation.
A three-man team of investigators led by Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board (AAIIB) chief Rainier Baculinao was also formed to determine the cause of this incident.
"While investigation on the medical evacuation plane RP-C5880 is ongoing, it has been decided that Lionair's entire fleet will be grounded," said Eric Apolonio, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) spokesman and chief information officer.
Five Lionair jets were affected by the suspension order, including a Cessna Citation 500, an IAA Westwind I, a Beechcraft B200 King Air, a Let L-410 UPV and a Robinson R44.
Investigators will determine if all aviation safety procedures were followed. Apolonio said also said the cockpit voice recorder of the plane has been recovered from the scene.
CAAP clarified that the airline involved in the latest accident belonged to Lionair Inc., a charter airline operating and registered in the Philippines. It is not affiliated with Lion Air Indonesia, the low-cost airline based in Jakarta.
Investigators are now collecting all the documents related to the plane, its crew and its recent flights for forensic analysis. Manila airport officials said the flight tower was alarmed the airplane could not take off despite being light enough to clear the length of the runway.
In a press briefing Sunday night at the airport, CAAP Captain Don Mendoza said the jet was airworthy and that all its pilots’ licenses were current.
The temporary runway closure imposed by the Manila airport forced a Korean Airlines flight (KE623) to be diverted to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Pampanga.
Lionair had helped the Department of Health transport medical supplies to Zamboanga, Mactan, Iloilo, Butuan and Metro Manila in relation to the government's fight against COVID-19.
A copy of the airplane’s general declaration showed that the passengers were John Richard Hurst, aged 63, of Canada; and Marilyn Vergara De Jesus, 58, of the USA.
The pilots were identified as Capt. Ren Edward Nevado Ungson, Capt. Melvin Bruel De Castro, and Capt. Mario Rosello Medina Jr. The others were Dr. Cenover Nicandro Bautista II and nurses Conrado Tomeldan Jr. and Edmark Jael.
In September, CAAP also formed a team to conduct a through investigation to determine the cause of a crash, also involving Lionair's plane that killed nine persons in Calamba City in Laguna.
The CAAP is still awaiting the results of that investigation. With Vito Barcelo
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