Philippine’s military investigators have recovered the black box of the plane that crashed on Sunday killing 52 people, officials said on Tuesday.
Troops cordoned off a 1-kilometre radius around the wreckage in the town of Patikul on Jolo Island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila, said Cirilito Sobejana, the armed forces chief of staff.
“The area is restricted so that the pieces of evidence they gather are uncontaminated.
“It’s hard to speculate what really happened. It’s good that the black box has been recovered and we can hear the last conversations of the pilots and crew,” he said.
Sobejana said witnesses were giving different accounts of the accident and investigators were looking into all of them.
“According to some of the survivors, the plane bounced three times on touchdown, and on the third bounce, it zigzagged as it tried to pull up again.
“But it failed to regain power and one of the wings got caught in a tree and the plane banked right and crashed,” he said.
Witnesses on the ground said part of the landing gear did not come out, while others said the plane’s approach was too fast.
The C-130 was carrying 96 military personnel when it crashed and burst into flames, killing 49 soldiers on board and three civilians on the ground.
Forty-seven troops and four civilians were injured, some of whom were in critical condition, Sobejana said.
Most passengers were fresh military graduates being deployed to Jolo to help fight the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which has been blamed for some of the country’s worst bombings and high-profile kidnappings.
Residents of the village where the plane crashed were among the first to respond to the accident, and pulled soldiers out of the burning wreckage.
“We are very thankful to the locals. They took the risk of going into the crash site to help. If they did not pull out the survivors, they would have also burnt,” Sobejana said.
In one of the videos showing the rescue, one resident was heard shouting at the soldiers, “Hold on sir, we will be right back!”
The plane was one of only four C-130 aircraft in the air force that was operational; it has now been grounded, while two others are under maintenance.
The crash was the third involving a C-130 plane in the country since the 1990s, when the Philippine military began to use the aircraft for troop deployment, logistics runs and humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
In 1993, 30 people died when a C-130 plane crashed in the eastern province of Camarines Sur while transporting relief goods for typhoon victims.
In 2008, 11 people died when another C-130 went down minutes after it took off from an airport in the southern city of Davao City.
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