A Philippine air force C-130 aircraft carrying combat troops assigned to fight Muslim militants crashed and exploded while landing in the south Sunday, killing at least 42 army soldiers on board and three civilians on the ground in one of worst disasters in the air force’s history.
At least 49 other soldiers were rescued with injuries and survived the fiery noontime crash into a coconut grove outside the Jolo airport in Sulu province, in-cluding some who managed to jump off the aircraft before it exploded and was gutted by fire, military officials said. Three of seven villagers who were hit on the ground died.
The aircraft had 96 people on board, including three pilots and five crew while the rest were army per-sonnel, the military said, adding only five soldiers remained unaccounted for late Sunday. The pilots survived but were seriously injured, officials said.
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was one of two ex-U.S. Air Force aircraft handed over to the Philippines as part of military assistance this year.
“The aircraft was transporting our troops from Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan to Jolo when it crashed at Barangay Bangkal, Patikul, Sulu just a few kilometers east of Jolo airport,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana told media.
“We are currently attending to the survivors who were immediately brought to the 11th Infantry Divi-sion station hospital in Busbus, Jolo, Sulu,” he said.
Initial information released to the media indicated that there were 96 people on board, mostly army troops, five crewmen and three pilots, while images and videos shared by residents in the area showed thick black smoke billowing from the crash site.
Five military personnel remain unaccounted for, the defence ministry said.