Philippine Catholic Church leaders expressed “great sadness” over the crash of a C-130 military aircraft in Jolo, Sulu, that killed at least 50 of its passengers, mostly soldiers.
“As your pastors, we share the pain of loss that this recent news has brought us,” read a statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“We condole with the families and friends of the several soldiers and civilians who were killed by the crash,” added the statement signed by Bishop Romulo Valles of Davao, CBCP president.
“To our merciful Lord we commend the souls of our departed soldiers, and we invoke His healing hands upon those who have survived and who have sustained injuries,” it added.
The bishops called on everyone – “Christians, Muslims, as well as all people of good will” – “to continue to be united – in solidarity and prayer.”
“In this time of sorrow, may we find consolation in the words of the apostle Paul: ‘We know that in everything God works for good,’” read the bishops’ statement.
Authorities on Tuesday said they have retrieved a black box from the Air Force plane that crashed on Sunday.
Military Chief Cirilito Sobejana said the pilot in command, who had several years of experience flying a C-130 aircraft, was among those who died in the crash.
The military chief said a black box was retrieved on Monday and should enable investigators to listen to the conversations of the pilots and crew before the plane crashed.
“I spoke to the survivors and they said the plane bounced two to three times and zig-zagged,” said Sobejana in an interview with Reuters.
“The pilot tried to regain power because he wanted to lift the plane but it was too late. The right wing hit a tree,” he said.
Sobejana said no one jumped from the aircraft before it crashed. There had been earlier accounts from witnesses that some passengers had tried to leap to safety before the aircraft struck the ground.
He said the front of the aircraft was sliced open and some of the soldiers took advantage of the opening to escape. But those who were unconscious were unable to get out and the plane burst into flames.
The Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft was carrying troops bound for counter-insurgency operations in the southern Philippines crashed with 96 aboard.
The death toll rose on Monday to 52, including three civilians on the ground, after two of the 49 soldiers hurt in the crash succumbed to their injuries, the defense ministry said.
Military spokesman Edgard Arevalo said the plane was in “very good condition” and had 11,000 flying hours remaining before its next maintenance was due. – with a report from Reuters