Military ends rescue and retrieval ops with 52 dead in C-130 plane crash in Sulu

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 5) — The Armed Forces of the Philippines has concluded its rescue and retrieval operations on the Air Force C-130 aircraft that crashed in Patikul, Sulu, leaving 52 dead — the country's deadliest military air disaster in at least four decades.

"We have already completed our rescue and retrieval (operation)," AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said in a text message to CNN Philippines on Monday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed on Monday night that the latest death toll in Sunday's crash increased to 52 after the remains of two earlier missing soldiers were recovered.

The crash left 49 fatalities and 47 injured persons from the military.

The Department of National Defense earlier said the three civilians killed were on the ground when the crash happened.

AFP spokesperson Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo told CNN Philippines' New Day early Monday that Sobejana was already headed to the area after ordering that the site be safeguarded to determine the cause of the incident.

Sobejana, who once served as the Joint Task Force Sulu commander, will be accompanied by members of the Air Mobility Command and the investigating team within the day, Arevalo said.

Initial reports said the aircraft appears to have overshot the runway as it tried to land at the Jolo Airport on Sunday morning. Arevalo noted that that "for an unknown reason that is yet to be determined, it turned out that the aircraft skidded" and instead crashed in Patikul.

"(The black box) not yet been recovered and we're going to continue — I'm not sure if it has been recovered at this time, but...in the conversation that I had last night with the commander of the Air Mobility Command, he told me that this is available...in this model of C-130 aircraft," Arevalo said.

He added that apart from eyewitnesses and data from the control tower of the Jolo airport, they will look into "the most important piece of information" that could be derived from the black box, while some details remain inconclusive.

At least 96 passengers were listed in the flight, including three pilots and five air crew members, according to Arevalo.

He added they already have the names of the 50 fatalities but they are still in the process of identifying their bodies.

In a separate briefing, Arevalo said flags will be raised at half-staff in different military camps to honor the fallen soldiers. The bereaved families will also be assisted for their needs.

Aviation-related accidents involving the Air Force also led to dozens of deaths in the past. In 1971, a Douglas C-47 A had crashed while enroute to Manila, leaving 40 dead. In 1993, a C-130 had crashed in Camarines Sur, killing 30 people.

"This is one of the most tragic incidents that happened in our Armed Forces," Arevalo said. "We do not want to compare this in terms of number of casualties. One too many is already a tragedy in so far as this is concerned."