Philippine troops found the last five people killed in the crash of a transport plane south, raising the death toll to 50 in the army’s worst air disaster, officials said Monday.
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was carrying 96 combat soldiers mostly when it crossed the runway while landing Sunday at Jolo airport in Sulu province, military officials reported. It crashed into a coconut grove beyond the airport and exploded in flames in a noon disaster witnessed by horrified soldiers and villagers.
Troops, police and firefighters rescued 49 soldiers, including a few who jumped off the plane before it exploded and was destroyed by fire. All passengers have now been counted. Seven people on the ground were hit by plane debris and debris and three of them died, the military said.
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was one of two remodeled U.S. Air Force aircraft delivered to the Philippines, Washington’s oldest treaty ally in Asia, as part of this year’s military assistance.
Those who boarded the C-130 in Cagayan de Oro for the flight to Sulu were army troops, many of them newly trained recruits, to deploy in the battle against Abu Sayyaf fighters in the south. .
It was not immediately known what caused the crash and investigators searched the C-130 black boxes containing the flight and voice data recorders in the cockpit.
Earlier Sunday, the deadliest disaster of the Philippine Air Force was an accident at a rice paddy in northern Manila in 1971 that killed 40 military personnel, military historian Jose Custodio said.