MANILA -- A New Zealand couple was among nine people killed in a small plane that was conducting a medical airlift when it crashed and exploded in flames at a resort in Laguna and investigators are trying to determine what caused the tragedy, officials said Monday, September 2.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Wellington said it was providing consular assistance to the family of the couple "who sadly died in the plane crash in the Philippines," but that it could not provide any other information for privacy reasons.
Authorities identified the couple as Tom Carr and Erma Carr, a Filipina with New Zealand citizenship. Friends said Tom Carr went by his middle name, Laurence.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) said it was investigating why the Beechcraft King Air plane carrying the couple and seven Filipinos, including a medical team, crashed Sunday, September 1, in Pansol village in Laguna province as it approached its destination, Manila.
Eric Apolonio, a Caap spokesman, said the plane suddenly plummeted out of radar range near Mount Makiling over Pansol, a resort village popular for swimming pools and hot springs. He declined to speculate on what caused the crash.
Videos posted by witnesses online showed smoke coming from the plane as it flew low over trees and houses before crashing and igniting a fire in a resort compound, where nine bodies were retrieved from the wreckage.
Two resort caretakers sustained burns and were taken to hospital, police said.
Only eight people on board the plane were listed in the manifest, including Laurence Carr, who Apolonio said was the patient being transported from Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte province to Manila. Carr's wife, Erma, was not listed on the manifest although she was on board the 11-seater plane and investigators will try to find out why, Apolonio said.
Friends expressed shock over the couple's sudden death. They were scheduled to fly back to New Zealand in a few weeks to celebrate their birthdays.
Lynne Ariston-Smith, who is originally from the Philippines, told The Associated Press in New Zealand that she had been a close friend of Erma Carr since she married Laurence Carr and moved to New Zealand a little over 20 years ago.
"She was loved by everybody and was a very loving person, too," Ariston-Smith said.
The couple had traveled to the Philippines to spend six months with Erma's family. Last month, Erma Carr wrote on Facebook that she had wanted to spend time with her brother in the Philippines who was very ill.
Ariston-Smith said Laurence was a retired farmer while Erma was very active helping at her children's primary school in the small North Island town of Ruakaka where the couple lived. Erma Carr was also very close to a group of Catholics and other Christian friends who did good work in the community, she said.
Laurence, who was in his early 70s, had been suffering from some health problems, Ariston-Smith said, and Erma, who was in her early 50s, had been helping look after him.
The couple had one adult child together, Vincent, and had recently adopted Erma's nephew and niece from the Philippines, Nino and Nina, aged about 11 and 9.
"I think I'm still in shock," Ariston-Smith said. "She was supposed be back on the 20th for her and Laurence's birthdays." (AP)