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Black Box of Crashed Air Force Plane is Found, Investigation Proceeds

An important development, the military says.
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The flight data recorder or blackbox of an Air Force cargo plane that crashed and killed 52 people has been found, which will help investigators determine the cause of one of the worst military aviation disasters in Philippine history, the head of the armed forces said Tuesday.

Data from the black box will help determine what happened before and during the crash in Patikul, Sulu last Sunday. In total, 49 soldiers on board the C-130 plane and three people on the ground were killed. The incident also left 47 troopers and four civilians injured.

"Mahalaga yung mga black box na narecover nila. Doon natin mapapakinggan ano ang napag-usapan ng piloto at crew," said the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, Gen. Cirilito Sobejana.

"Hihintayin natin ang magiging resulta. Lahat tinitingnan natin, before landing, during landing and even yung mismong pagbagsak ng eroplano," Sobejana told Teleradyo. The one-kilometer radius of the crash sit was cordoned off, he said.

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The remains of at least seven of the 49 soldiers who perished have been identified. Some were charred beyond recognition," Sobejana said.

As the plane crashed into a village with coconut trees, some of its occupants were seen jumping from the aircraft, said one eyewitness in a separate Teleradyo interview.

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Duterte condoles with famlies of crash victims

President Rodrigo Duterte flew to a military camp in the southern city of Zamboanga, where the dead and dozens of injured were brought.

"I commiserate with you. I am as sorrowful as you. And as commander-in-chief, I am hurting the most because of lives lost," Duterte said at a navy base after saluting the flag-draped coffins.

The C-130 aircraft was carrying recently graduated troops bound for counter-insurgency operations in the south and had been trying to land on Jolo island before it crashed and burst into flames.

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.

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"We are determined to find out what really transpired in this very tragic incident, because according to available information the aircraft followed the specified protocols," he told a news conference.

Agga Ahaddi, a relative of the three civilians killed, was working at a nearby quarry when he saw the plane slam into his family's home then hit another where relatives were staying, before bursting info flames.

"When the plane first crashed, it ran through our house," he said.

The C-130 plane crashed in an Abu Sayyaf area

The military command said soldiers were flying to the Jolo from Laguindingan, about 460 km (290 miles) away, to be deployed to their battalions.

The army has been fighting a long war in the area against militants from the Islamic State-inspired Abu Sayyaf and other factions.

There was no sign the plane was brought down by insurgent fire, officials said.

Arevalo assured the public the investigation would be transparent and said authorities were still searching for the flight recorders.

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Jolo airport has a 1,200-meter runway that usually takes civilian turboprop flights and some military flights, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

The Lockheed aircraft had only recently arrived in the Philippines and was one of two provided by the U.S. government through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, a government website said in January.

It quoted an Air Force spokesman as saying the aircraft would boost capability for heavy airlift missions.

The website said the plane that crashed had first flown in 1988. The model is a workhorse for armed forces around the world.

The Philippine military has a patchy air safety record. Last month a Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training mission, killing six people.

A Philippines Air Force C-130 crash in 1993 killed 30 people, while a 2008 accident of the civilian variant of the Lockheed plane killed 11, the Aviation Safety Network says.

The country's worst plane crash was that of an Air Philippines Boeing 737 in 2000, which killed 131 people.

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-- with reports from Reuters

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