MANILA – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) denied rumors that the C-130H “Hercules” cargo plane that crashed in Patikul, Sulu on July 4 was overloaded.
“The said C-130 was not overloaded. It was well within the operational limits and capacity when it left Laguindingan Airport with 96 passengers compared to its maximum capacity of 120 passengers; this is contrary to the circulating rumor that the aircraft was overloaded,” PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano said in a statement late Tuesday night.
In a separate message to reporters, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged the public to wait for the official results of the investigation on the incident.
“Let’s wait for the PAF report. Yung mga lumalabas ngayon haka-haka pa lang (All claims that are surfacing are mere speculations),” Lorenzana said when asked to comment on the possible cause of the deadly mishap.
Mariano, meanwhile, said a scene of the crime operation (SOCO) team is helping identify the bodies of the 12 fallen PAF personnel who were among the 96 passengers of the flight.
He added that the members of the 220th Airlift Wing Aircraft Accident Investigation Board are on-site investigating the crash of the C-130 aircraft with tail number 5125 in Jolo.
“The team is composed of personnel of various specialization(s), like pilots, maintenance, medical, and other technical fields. The team is gathering evidence and conducting interviews, among others, to determine the cause of the accident. The PAF has grounded its C-130 fleet pending the result of the investigation,” he said.
On Monday, Mariano said search-and-recovery teams recovered the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) of the ill-fated C-130.
“The FDR and CVR will be shipped to a facility capable of evaluating and analyzing data,” he added.
Mariano also said PAF chief Lt. Gen. Allen T. Paredes recognizes the sacrifices and dedication of all soldiers and airmen.
“He condoles with the families of soldiers and airmen who perished in the crash. He has directed concerned PAF units to coordinate with affected families, make tentative arrangements, provide necessary assistance and information, and address other concerns. The families of PAF personnel will receive benefits and assistance, and PAF personnel will stand by their side,” he added.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Mariano said the remains of two PAF fatalities, identified as Capt. Nigello E. Emetrio and Technical Sgt. Mark Agana, were brought to Clark Air Base, Mabalacat City, Pampanga from Zamboanga City via NC-212i transport aircraft.
“Appropriate military honors were rendered to our beloved airmen,” he added.
Mariano said the safety of all PAF flying personnel and its assets are prioritized by Paredes as proven by his instructions to embark on the Safety Transformation for Enhanced Performance and Unit Preservation (STEP UP) program.
“Notably, the PAF discarded the 1970s-inspired PAF Manual 17-5 ‘Safety Program’ and institutionalized the Safety Management Systems Manual that adopted applicable principles and standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization,” he added.
Mariano also said they launched the PAF Safety Climate Assessment and Notations (PAF SCAN) to gauge prevailing safety culture in units in terms of just, informed, learning, and reporting cultures; and launched online safety courses for squadron commanders and other personnel, among others.
“These, notwithstanding, the PAF will institute necessary corrective actions based on the results of the ongoing investigation,” he added.
As of this posting, the number of military personnel killed in the incident has climbed to 50, with civilian deaths remaining at three.
Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief, Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, said the 50th military fatality — a soldier confined at the West Metro Medical Center, Zamboanga City — died of chemical burns on Monday night.
The number of injured soldiers stands at 46, along with four wounded civilians. (PNA)