MANILA—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 the 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, including 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 personnel, the military said, adding that 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 originally took off from Manila with only a few passengers, including a two-star army general, Romeo Brawner Jr., who disembarked with his wife and three children in Cagayan de Oro city, where he is set to become the new military regional commander on Monday. The army troops then boarded the C-130 in Cagayan de Oro for the flight to Sulu.