MANILA (UPDATE 7) – A military transport plane carrying 96 passengers and crew crashed in Sulu on Sunday, killing at least 42 military personnel and injuring 49 others, military officials said.
Three civilians on the ground also died, while 4 others were injured as the C-130 aircraft crashed.
The Department of National Defense said 5 passengers of the plane remained missing. Eyewitnesses said a number of soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground. It was not immediately clear how many jumped or whether they had survived.
Thirty two of the injured soldiers were airlifted to the Camp Navarro General Hospital inside the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City. Eleven others are undergoing treatment at the Philippine Army 11th Infantry Division Hospital in Busbus town.
Those on board the aircraft were new privates of the Philippine Army who were supposed to be deployed in Sulu, Joint Task Force Sulu said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the C-130 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) crashed while landing at an airport in Jolo around noon.
The plane “missed the runway while trying to regain power,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana.
“We remain to be hopeful that we could find more survivors. Our search and rescue is still ongoing with 17 personnel unaccounted [for]. These individuals were supposed to report to their battalions today. They were supposed to join us in our fight against terrorism,” said JTF Sulu Commander Major General. William Gonzales.
“This is a sad day but we have to remain hopeful. We enjoin the nation to pray for those who are injured and those who have perished in this tragedy,” Gonzales added.
Philippine National Police Chief Guillermo Eleazar said he has already instructed local police officials to coordinate with the AFP and extend all the necessary assistance needed in their search and retrieval operations.
Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her condolences to the families of those who died as she asked for prayers for the souls of those who died in the plane crash, as well as for their families and the troops involved in the retrieval operations.
“Nakikiramay ako sa mga pamilya at mahal sa buhay ng mga nasawi sa pagbagsak ng C-130 aircraft kaninang tanghali sa Jolo, Sulu. Nagpapasalamat ako sa balitang naligtas na ang ilan sa mga pasahero, at ipinagdarasal ko ang kaligtasan ng mga hindi pa natatagpuan,” she said in a statement.
(I express my condolences to the family and loved ones of those who died in the C-130 crash in Jolo, Sulu. I am grateful for the news that some of the passengers have been rescued, and I pray for the safety of those who are still missing.)
“Buo ang aking tiwala sa AFP at iba pang ahensiya na kasalukuyang nagsasagawa ng search and retrieval operations. Handang tumulong ang aming tanggapan sa anumang paraan kung kinakailangan. Hinihikayat ko ang lahat ng ating kababayan na isama sa kanilang mga panalangin ang lahat ng pasahero ng eroplanong bumagsak, ang kanilang mga pamilya, at ang mga patuloy na kumikilos para sa search and retrieval operations,” Robredo added.
(I have complete trust in the AFP and other agencies involved in the search and retrieval operations. My office is ready to extend help in any way. I also ask everyone to include in their prayers all the passengers of the plane, their families and everyone involved in the search and retrieval operations.)
The aircraft, with tail number 5125, took off from Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base to Lumbia Airport and subsequently ferried personnel to Jolo, said Philippine Air Force Spokesman Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano.
It was one of two aircraft provided by the US government through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, a government website said in January. It quoted an air force spokesman as saying the aircraft would boost capability for heavy airlift missions.
The website C-130.net said the plane that crashed had first flown in 1988. The model is a workhorse for armed forces around the world.
The Philippines’ armed forces have a patchy air safety record. Last month a Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training mission, killing six people.
A Philippines Air Force C-130 crash in 1993 killed 30 people. A 2008 crash of the civilian variant of the Lockheed plane flown by the Philippines Air Force killed 11 people, the Aviation Safety Network says.