Philippine security forces searched among coconut trees on a remote southern island for the flight data boxes of an aircraft that crashed and killed 52 people in one of the country’s worst military air disasters.
As gathered, the C-130 Hercules transport plane was carrying 96 people, most of them recent army graduates, when it overshot the runway yesterday while trying to land on Jolo island in Sulu province — a haven for Islamist militants.
Confirming the development, the country’s military spokesman, Major-General Edgard Arevalo, said that the plane
skidded and burst into flames in a village, killing 52 people including 49 military personnel and three civilians.
He added that aside from the fatalities recorded, no fewer than 51 people who are mostly soldiers sustained varying degrees of injuries after the plane crashland and that it was not clear yet if the pilots were among the survivors.
Meanwhile, photos of the scene released by the military’s Joint Task Force-Sulu showed the damaged tail and smoking wreckage scattered in a coconut grove.
“We have people on the ground to make sure the integrity of the pieces of the evidence that we will retrieve, most particularly the flight data recorder,” Arevalo said.
“Aside from eyewitness accounts, we are also looking for recordings, radio conversation recordings between the pilot and the control tower.”
Arevalo said that the military had secured the crash site and would ensure militants on the island do not disrupt search efforts, saying dental records were being used to help identify the charred remains of victims.
Most of the passengers recently graduated from basic military training and were being deployed to the restive island as part of a counter-insurgency effort in the Muslim-majority region.
The military has a heavy presence in the southern Philippines where militant groups, including the kidnap-for-ransom outfit Abu Sayyaf, operate.