Philippines Recovers Black Boxes from Crashed Military Plane

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
2021-07-06
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Philippines Recovers Black Boxes from Crashed Military Plane Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte returns the salute of a wounded soldier who survived Sunday’s C-130 crash at Camp Navarro General Hospital, Zamboanga city, July 5, 2021
King Rodriguez/Presidential photo

Troops recovered black boxes from a Philippine Air Force transport plane that crashed and burst into flames on Jolo Island over the weekend, killing dozens of servicemen on board and three civilians on the ground, the military chief said Tuesday.

One soldier died on Monday night, bringing the death toll from Sunday’s crash of the C-130 to 50 troops, including the plane’s crew, officials said. In addition, 46 soldiers and four civilians were injured when the plane overshot the runway and crashed while trying to land.

The plane’s cockpit-voice recorder and flight-data recorder – often referred to as black boxes – were found at 11 a.m. Monday, said Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, who heads the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Right now it is being studied by aircraft investigators who are listening to the last conversations of the pilot and crew,” Sobejana said, referring to the voice recorder.

The flight-data recorder will be handed over to experts in the United States to retrieve information, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

The latest casualty from the crash died after sustaining chemical burns to the face, Sobejana told a Manila radio station. The soldier may have also inhaled smoke that aggravated his condition, he said.

“Some of those who perished were burned beyond recognition,” he said.

On Tuesday, Sobejana told BenarNews that he had heard different accounts about the crash.

“I spoke with the passengers – the survivors – at the military hospital in Zamboanga and was told that the plane bounced three times,” he said. “After the third bounce it zigzagged and managed to pull back up, but did not gain altitude.

“The wing hit a tree and exploded, banked to the right and crashed. Others, meanwhile, said only one landing gear was seen going down, but maybe this is just from their line of sight.”

Sobejana paid tribute to unknown Jolo civilians who were among those who pulled survivors from the burning plane, the deadliest crash in Philippine air force history.

The military chief said investigators remained at the crash site. The plane was carrying eight crew members and 88 soldiers who were on their way to join the fight against Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim militant group that operates on Jolo, an island in far-southern Sulu province.

“We are waiting for the results, they are looking at everything,” he said. “They are also interviewing witnesses, and a one-kilometer radius around the area where debris is being collected has been cordoned.”

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana visits survivors at a military hospital in Zamboanga, July 6, 2021. [Philippine Department of National Defense handout]
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana visits survivors at a military hospital in Zamboanga, July 6, 2021. [Philippine Department of National Defense handout]

Lorenzana, the defense secretary, traveled with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday to nearby Zamboanga, where some of the bodies of the dead were taken and survivors were hospitalized. Burn specialists were flown there to help treat the survivors, officials said, adding that some remained in critical condition.

“I have no words to capture how I feel about the recent tragedies that befell the AFP,” Lorenzana said, using an acronym for Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“No compensation can repay our soldiers’ supreme sacrifices. We owe them a debt of gratitude that is perpetual – we can only try by emulating their courage and passion in what we do.”

The crash was the latest in a series involving military and police aircraft. In June, six soldiers were killed when a newly acquired Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a night training exercise.

The crashed airplane was one of five C-130s in the Philippine Air Force fleet. Two others were being serviced out of the country while the remaining two have been grounded, pending an investigation.

Sobejana said Duterte had ordered the air force to ensure that all its aircraft “should be in good shape all the time.”

“We cannot afford to have similar incidents in the future, that should be the last,” Sobejana said. 

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