The Philippine Air Force (PAF) denied rumors that the C-130H “Hercules” cargo plane that crashed in Patikul, Sulu on July 4 was overloaded.
“The said C-130 was not overloaded. It was well within the operational limits and capacity when it left Laguindingan Airport with 96 passengers compared to its maximum capacity of 120 passengers; this is contrary to the circulating rumor that the aircraft was overloaded,” PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano said in a statement late Tuesday night.
In a separate message to reporters, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged the public to wait for the official results of the investigation on the incident.
“Let’s wait for the PAF report. All claims that are surfacing are mere speculations,” Lorenzana said when asked to comment on the possible cause of the deadly mishap.
Mariano, meanwhile, said a scene of the crime operation (SOCO) team is helping identify the bodies of the 12 fallen PAF personnel who were among the 96 passengers of the flight.
He added that the members of the 220th Airlift Wing Aircraft Accident Investigation Board are on-site investigating the crash of the C-130 aircraft with tail number 5125 in Jolo.
“The team is composed of personnel of various specialization(s), like pilots, maintenance, medical, and other technical fields. The team is gathering evidence and conducting interviews, among others, to determine the cause of the accident. The PAF has grounded its C-130 fleet pending the result of the investigation,” he said.
On Monday, Mariano said search-and-recovery teams recovered the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) of the ill-fated C-130.
“The FDR and CVR will be shipped to a facility capable of evaluating and analyzing data,” he added.
Mariano also said PAF chief Lt. Gen. Allen T. Paredes recognizes the sacrifices and dedication of all soldiers and airmen.
“He condoles with the families of soldiers and airmen who perished in the crash. He has directed concerned PAF units to coordinate with affected families, make tentative arrangements, provide necessary assistance and information, and address other concerns. The families of PAF personnel will receive benefits and assistance, and PAF personnel will stand by their side,” he added.