It was one of the worst plane crashes in Philippine military history.
Hercules C-130 carried 96 people, most of whom were young graduates who were going to lend themselves to Zolo’s struggle against the Islamic insurgency, when the weather was good on the island.
Fifty people, including 47 soldiers and three civilians, were killed when the plane crashed and caught fire, Philippine military spokesman General Edgard Arevalo said. An earlier report had said 45 people had died.
A total of 53 people were injured, most of them soldiers. It is unknown whether the pilots survived.
Local official Tanda Heilt told AFP that the three people killed on the ground were working in a quarry near the crash site.
In the photos of the crash site released by the military, you can see the plane’s skid and part of its destroyed fuse in the middle of the coconut trees.
“We are on the ground to ensure the integrity of the recovered clues, especially the flight record,” Mr. Arevalo said.
“In addition to eyewitness accounts, we are looking to recover any recordings, including radio conversations between the pilot and the control tower.”
Zolo is the stronghold of an organization called Abu Sayyaf, which is considered a terrorist by Washington, which is divided into several factions, some of which have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
The group is responsible for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the archipelago and specializes in rescue and villainous abductions.
Mr Arevalo said the army had guarded the perimeter of the crash site to ensure that insurgents did not come to disrupt the search.
The C-130 Hercules is often used by the military in the archipelago to transport men, equipment and vehicles between islands.
The plane that crashed on Sunday is nothing new. It previously belonged to the U.S. military and was recaptured by Manila earlier this year.
It is one-fourth of the Philippine Navy. Two more are currently under repair. The latter was fitted for inspection following the fourth accident.
“They are all experienced pilots, so we can’t immediately say why this happened,” General Arevalo said. “While this military equipment is not new, it is possible.”
Historian Jose Antonio Custodio says it was the worst plane crash in Philippine military history since the Douglas C-47 crash that killed 40 people in 1971.