US offers to help Philippines identify soldiers killed in Sulu crash

The United States offered to help the Philippines identify soldiers who died in Sunday’s fatal C-130 Hercules crash in Patikul, Sulu, the worst aviation disaster in Philippine military history.

The US Department of Defense said on Wednesday, July 7, that the offer was extended to the Philippines in a phone call between Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III on Tuesday, July 6. 

In a summary of the conversation, the US defense department said, “Austin offered to provide any additional assistance that is possible, including for the crash response and potential identification of victims.”

The C-130 carried 84 Army troopers and 12 Air Force personnel, with most of the passengers trainees from the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City. The crash killed at least at least 52 and injured 46 others, including three civilians who died, and four others who were injured.

The Philippine military earlier said on July 5 that it was in the process of identifying soldiers who died in the crash so that their remains could be brought back to their families.

As of Tuesday, at least six were identified, with their bodies were flown from Zamboanga City to Cagayan de Oro, where they were given full military honors. 

The Philippines and US have been closely coordinating on response to the crash. 

Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan earlier said the Philippines would send the C-130’s black box or flight recorder to the US for examination. American personnel also provided medical evacuation support for victims of the crash. 

The ill-fated plane was acquired from the US just in January 2021, for only about P1.54 billion or $32 million under a Foreign Military Financing grant. The “workhorse” aircraft was supposed to be used by the Philippines for years. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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