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Philippines Hijacker’s Body Found

May 26, 2000

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Soldiers have recovered the body of a man who tried to hijack a Philippine Airlines jet with 291 other people aboard, then jumped out of the plane at 6,000 feet wearing a homemade parachute.

The body of Augusto Lakandula was found after residents reported seeing a man in a parachute landing on Thursday afternoon, Gen. Jose Lachica said today.

His body was found in the town of Real, Quezon province, about 40 miles east of Manila, radio reports said. The impact of the fall had all but imbedded Lakandula in mud, with only his knees and hands protruding, a police officer told the DZMM Radio.

The improvised parachute was with him, but not the bag of money he took from the others aboard the plane, Lachica said.

A local leader, Basilio Gesmundo, told the radio that residents saw a plane circling and saw something fall from it.

After the parachute opened, they saw a man floating for about five minutes before he separated from the parachute and fell into the forested mountains, Gesmundo said.

The lavender chute, about 10-15 yards in diameter, could have saved the man if he had had time to fasten it to his body better, the police officer told DZMM Radio.

But Aviation Security Group Director Supt. Marcelo Ele Jr. said attempting to jump using such a parachute would have been ``plain and simple suicide.″

At Davao City, where the flight originated, the man could have boarded the jet with his weapons because of several security problems, aviation authorities said.

There was no walkthrough metal detector, the X-ray machine was not working _ forcing guards to conduct manual checks _ and there is no fence around the airport, so the man could have bypassed security entirely, Ele said today.

Lakandula, who was armed with a grenade and a pistol, was crying when he tried to hijack the jet Thursday. Wearing a ski mask and swimming goggles, he ordered the pilot of PAL Flight PR812 to return to Davao City, 600 miles south of Manila, rather than proceed to the capital.

When the pilot said fuel was low, Lakandula robbed everyone and jumped out, authorities said.

At one point, the ``deranged″ hijacker fired a shot inside the cockpit _ perhaps accidentally, pilot Emmanuel Generoso said.

``He was very tense,″ Generoso said. ``He had family problems, he needed the money, so that’s what happened.″

The plane was depressurized to permit the hijacker to jump while it circled 28 miles from Manila at 6,000 feet, PAL spokesman Rolando Estabillo said.

A huge gust of wind swept into the plane when the door was opened, a passenger said. It stayed open until the jet landed.

``I had to push him because he wanted to jump,″ a flight attendant said. ``I opened the door because he wanted to jump.″

When the jet landed at the Manila airport, all 277 passengers and 14 crew left the plane safely, PAL said.

PAL said it was the first attempted hijacking of one of its planes in 18 years. In 1982, a farmer armed with a grenade seized control of a PAL plane in Mactan, in the central Philippines, but he was eventually subdued with no injury to passengers.

Update hourly