50 dead in Philippine military’s worst air crash

Officials said on Monday that the Philippine army found the last five people killed when a transport plane crashed in the south, bringing the death toll in the military’s worst air crash to 50.

Military officials said that the Lockheed C-130 Hercules crossed the runway when it landed at Jolo Airport in Sulu Province on Sunday, carrying 96 mainly combat troops. It hit a coconut grove outside the airport and caught fire in the noon disaster witnessed by frightened soldiers and villagers.

Troops, police and firefighters rescued 49 military personnel, some of whom jumped off the plane before it exploded and was destroyed by fire. Now all passengers have been counted. The military said seven people on the ground were hit by aircraft parts and debris, and three of them died.

The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is one of two refurbished U.S. Air Force aircraft handed over to the Philippines, Washington’s oldest Asian treaty ally, as part of military assistance this year.

The people who boarded the C-130 in Cagayan de Oro and flew to Sulu were the army, many of whom were newly trained recruits who would be deployed in the southern battle against Abu Sayyaf fighters.

It is still unclear what caused the crash. Investigators are looking for the black box of the C-130, which contains cockpit voice and flight data recorders.

Military historian Jose Custodio said that before Sunday, the deadliest disaster of the Philippine Air Force was a crash in a rice field north of Manila in 1971, killing 40 soldiers.


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