Philippine plane crash death toll rises to 50, military begins probe

The C-130 aircraft crashed after missing the runway.

The death toll in the crash of a military C-130 plane in the southern Philippines has risen to 50, officials said on Monday, as investigators began to look into what caused the accident.

The crash on Sunday in Patikul town on Jolo island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila, killed 47 soldiers who were on board the aircraft and three civilians on the ground, the Department of Defence said.

Another 49 soldiers and four civilians were injured in the accident and were being treated in hospital, the ministry said. Some of the survivors jumped off the plane just before it hit the ground, eyewitnesses said.

“The investigating team has already arrived in the area,” said Major General Edgard Arevalo, spokesman for the armed forces of the Philippines.

“We are determined to find out what really transpired in this very tragic incident,” he added. “According to available information, the aircraft followed specific protocols regarding approach speed, landing spot and part of the runway where it landed.”

The weather was good during the landing, while the pilots were experienced and rated, Arevalo said.

The plane crashed and burst into flames after overshooting the runway during its landing on Jolo. Photos showed the tail section of the cargo plane intact, while other parts were burned and scattered in pieces among coconut trees.

The crash site has been cordoned off as troops searched for the plane’s black box and gathered parts of the wreckage to help in the investigation, Arevalo said.

“All the remains of the 47 soldiers who perished have all been recovered and the tedious process of identification is now ongoing,” he added, noting that most of the bodies were charred.

The aircraft was carrying a total of 96 military personnel, including three pilots and five crew members. Most of the soldiers were fresh graduates from military training to be deployed to Jolo to help in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, Arevalo said.

Jolo is the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for some of the worst bombings and high-profile kidnappings in the country.

The ill-fated plane was one of only four C-130 aircraft in the air force. Only one of the remaining C-130 is operational, and it has now been grounded, while two others were under maintenance, Arevalo said.

“The [crashed] aircraft was in tip-top shape,” he said, denying allegations that plane was defective. “It’s not brand new but in very good condition … It still had 11,000 flying hours remaining before the next maintenance of this aircraft.”

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