A UH-1H “Huey” military helicopter crashed in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, Sunday morning injuring seven soldiers, military officials said.

The helicopter, assigned to the Tactical Advance Command Post of the Air Force’s Tactical Operations Group-10, crashed around 10:30 a.m. at Sitio Zapanta, Brgy. Bangayan, Maj. Eugenio Osias, Army 4th Infantry Division spokesman, said.

The aircraft crashed while on a mission to airlift a wounded soldier and to deliver additional provisions to operating troops in the area, Osias said in a statement.

Lieutenant Col. Miguel Okol, Air Force spokesman, said the helicopter was carrying two pilots, two crew members, and three Army soldiers when it went down.

“The passengers and crew are well, with only minor wounds and bruises,” Okol said in a text message.

The military, however, is withholding the names of the pilot, co-pilot and its passengers for 24 hours, or until after their next of kin are notified.

“The cause of the crash is still unknown as of this time and personnel from TOG-10 are currently conducting an investigation to determine what caused this unfortunate accident,” Osias said.

The incident occurred just two days after the Air Force received and commissioned in Luzon four of the eight brand new Sokol helicopters which the government had brought from Poland’s Augusta Westland-PZL Swidnik.

Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz said in that event that the force will still fly Hueys for 10 years before retiring them.

Military operations have been ongoing in Kitcharao since Monday, when members of the 5th Scout Ranger Company encountered about 50 armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Sitio Taiwan, also in Brgy. Bangayan.

The clash left a rebel dead and a soldier injured.

Troops recovered an AK 47 rifle, 172 rounds of AK47 ammunition, 100 rounds M60 machine gun ammunition, 200 meters of firing wire, four magazines for AK47 rifles, a bottle of Sodium Chloride mixture, firing switch, and other personal belongings at the site. (John Roson)

– end –