FIFTH UPDATE: At least 45 dead as PAF transport plane crashes in Sulu — military

Published July 4, 2021, 1:28 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

A Philippine Air Force (PAF) C130 transport plane carrying 96 personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) crash landed in Patikul, Sulu on Sunday morning, July 4, killing at least 45 individuals.

A Philippine Air Force (PAF) C-130 transport aircraft carrying military personnel crashes in Patikul, Sulu on July 4, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Pondohan TV/ Facebook)

Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, AFP Chief of Staff, said the military plane with tail no. 5125 was carrying troops from Cagayan de Oro when it missed the runway while trying to land in Barangay Bangkal, Patikul around 11:30 a.m.

The ill-fated aircraft was carrying 96 soldiers onboard: three pilots, five air crew, and 88 passengers, according to Joint Task Force Sulu commander, Maj. Gen. William Gonzales.

Gonzales said the bodies of at least 42 military personnel were recovered from the crash site as of 9 p.m.

Three civilians who were residents in the area also died after being crushed by the wreckage of the plane.

Meanwhile, 49 soldiers and four civilians were injured while five other military personnel were unaccounted for.

Thick smoke envelopes the csite where a Philippine Air Force (PAF) C-130 transport plane crashes on July 4, 2021( Photo courtesy of Pondohan TV/ Facebook)

“It’s very unfortunate. One of our C-130s crashed while transporting our troops from Cagayan de Oro. It missed the runway while trying to regain power. Hindi nakayanan at bumagsak (It couldn’t handle [the plane] and it went down),” Sobejana said.

The rescued soldiers were brought to the 11th Infantry Division hospital in Brgy. Busbus in Jolo, Sulu for treatment.

Thirty-two civilian residents were also evacuated to Zamboanga City as their homes were destroyed due to the plane crash while 17 others were being checked at the 11ID hospital for injuries.

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana said he has ordered a full investigation to determine the cause of the accident as soon as rescue and recovery operation is completed.

“As we commiserate with the pilots, crew, and passengers of the ill-fated aircraft as well as their families, I ask everyone to join us in praying for them,” Lorenzana said.

Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano, PAF spokesperson, said the aircraft took off from Villamor Air Base in Pasay City to Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro to ferry the soldiers to Sulu when the air mishap occured.

Accordingly, around 30 soldiers aboard the crashed cargo plane were fresh privates from the 4th Infantry Division and were deployed to Sulu to combat local extremists and communist rebels.

“Per eyewitnesses, a number of soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground, sparing them from the explosion caused by the crash,” said Gonzales.

“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,” he added.

A military report obtained by the Manila Bulletin from a highly reliable source said all three pilots and five crew are alive but in a critical condition.

A separate report said two of the three pilots have a rank of major while the other one is a first lieutenant. Of the five crew members, two are flight medical personnel with a rank of captain and lieutenant.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and Department of National Defense have yet to independently confirm these information.

Sobejana said he already ordered Gonzales to oversee the resue efforts on the ground.

“We are doing our best effort to rescue the passengers,” the AFP Chief assured.

Retrieval operations were still on-going as of this writing.

The tragic accident is the fourth in a string of fatal crashes involving military aircraft this 2021.

Just last June 23, six PAF personnel died when a Blackhawk S70i chopper crashed in Capas, Tarlac while undergoing a night proficiency flight training.

A PAF pilot was also killed when an MD520MG helicopter crashed in Getafe, Bohol on April 27.

Seven soldiers also died when a Huey UH-1H helicopter crashed in Bukidnon on January 16.