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Balikatan soldiers on despite trooper’s death

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The training of paratroopers, who are taking part in Balikatan 2016 war games with the United States, has not been suspended despite the death of a Philippine Air Force (PAF) airman during a jump exercise here, an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Friday.

“All will continue as planned. No changes will happen,” Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, Balikatan spokesperson, said in a text message on Friday.

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On Thursday afternoon, Airman 2nd Class Jover Dumansi of the PAF’s 710th Special Action Operations Wing took part in a proficiency jump exercise but was dragged by strong winds toward the sea near the Subic Bay International Airport.

Twenty paratroopers from the 710th Special Operations Wing conducted the proficiency jump exercises near the airport. Dumansi was one of the 10 jumpers in the first batch.

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A force protection team from the Philippines and the United States sped toward where Dumansi dropped but the rescue and recovery operation took 15 minutes. Dumansi was taken to the Unihealth Hospital here but was declared dead at 6 p.m.

“The accident was an isolated case and, hopefully, would not happen again,” Sayson said.

Dumansi’s body was released from the hospital and taken to a funeral home in Subic, Zambales. His relatives had been notified about his death, Sayson said.

“Definitely, he died in the line of duty, so his family will be receiving benefits,” he added.

Dumansi, was not new to the exercise. He was an experienced jumper, being part of an elite unit of the Air Force.  Sayson said the mishap was an “isolated, freak accident.”

Other airborne exercises are scheduled to be held in the following days.

Balikatan 2016 began on April 4 and will end on April 16. War games are being held in various training sites in the country, including Crow Valley in Tarlac, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Clark Air Field in Pampanga, Palawan and Panay.

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In Nueva Ecija, the Army’s 7th Infantry Division had advised residents of Barangay Palali in General Tinio town against going to nearby mountains where troops test fired 105-mm and 155-mm Howitzer cannons on Friday, the command spokesperson said.

Close to 600 troopers from the US Army Pacific Command were joined by Filipino soldiers in the series of combat training in the vast Fort Magsaysay reservation.  With a report by Julie M. Aurelio

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TAGS: AFP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Balikatan, Balikatan 2016, Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, Paratroopers, Philippine Air Force, War Games
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