The Philippines military announced that all victims of the crash of a Philippines Air Force C-130H on Sunday have been accounted for as of Monday evening. 49 military personnel on board were killed, while 47 others survived and are undergoing treatment in hospitals. Three civilians were killed and four others were injured as well, after the C-130 crashed into Patikul village when attempting to land at Jolo Airport in the southern Sulu province. The crash is now the worst aviation accident the Philippines military has suffered, surpassing the death of 40 in the 1971 crash of a Philippines Air Force C-47.
According to Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the Philippines Armed Forces, the C-130H had been transporting troops from Cagayan de Oro, in Mindanao, to Sulu province. Preliminary reports stated that the C-130H had overshot the runway and was attempting to regain altitude when it crashed into the village, but armed forces spokesperson Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo told CNN Philippines today that it is now believed that the C-130H skidded “for an unknown reason that is yet to be determined” after landing, resulting in the crash. Eyewitness reports made to Joint Task Force Sulu claimed that some of the passengers were seen jumping clear of the aircraft immediately prior to the crash at 11:30AM local time on Sunday.
The soldiers aboard the aircraft were recent training graduates, travelling to Sulu for their first deployment. Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental local officials have since stated that they are seeking a list of those on board the C-130H from the Department of National Defense and military, in order to help the next of kin of the dead and the survivors. President Rodrigo Duterte today visited Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City, awarding the injured survivors with the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the Rank of Kampilan before symbolically awarding the soldiers killed with the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the Rank of Kalasag.
The Philippines Air Force’s other active C-130H has been grounded following the launch of an investigation into the Sunday crash. Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo has said that foul play has been ruled out as a cause of the crash, adding that the “tip-top shape” C-130H still had 11,000 hours of flying time before requiring maintenance at the time of the crash, and was flown by experienced pilots. While search and rescue operations have been concluded, the search for the aircraft’s black box is still ongoing.
The C-130H, tail number 5125, had entered service with the Phillipines Air Force in January this year. It was one of two refurbished C-130Hs acquired by the Philippines from the United States. A US government grant meant that the Philippines only paid 1.6 billion pesos (~$32.4 million USD) for two C-130Hs valued at 2.5 billion pesos (~$50 million), with the remaining 900 million pesos paid for by the United States. In addition to transporting troops, the Philippines Air Force’s C-130 fleet has been heavily used for distribution of medical supplies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The crash comes shortly after a newly delivered Philippines Air Force S-70i Black Hawk crashed during a night training flight on 23 June, killing all six crew members. Two fatal accidents occurring close together are likely to strengthen calls for thorough investigations into them, especially as both accidents occurred with newly acquired aircraft.