CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 04 July) — Most of the passengers of the ill-fated Philippine Air Force C-130 plane that crashed in Sulu Sunday morning were new soldiers who had just graduated from a six-month basic infantry course at the 4th Infantry Division’s training unit in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.
Major Rodolfo Cordero, spokesperson of the 4th ID, told MindaNews that 50 soldiers boarded the C-130 aircraft in Lumbia on Sunday morning, many of them from Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental who were recruited by the 4th Infantry Division.
Cordero said the 50 soldiers were among149 new graduates at the Division Training Unit in Camp Bahian in Malaybalay City in Bukidnon.
Cordero said all 149 soldiers — regular replacements and reinforcements to the Army’s 11th Infantry Division in Sulu — waited at the Lumbia Airport for the C-130 plane to arrive.
He said the aircraft came from Manila with Major General Romeo Brawner Jr., and his staff among those on board.
Brawner is scheduled to assume command of the 4th Infantry Division on Monday, replacing Maj. Gen. Andres Centino who has assumed the command of the Philippine Army.
“Only 50 soldiers were accommodated in the C-130 plane. The rest were left behind to wait for the next sortie,” Cordero said.
As of 3:30 p.m. reporters were still awaiting word on the fate of the 50 new soldiers who boarded the plane in Cagayan de Oro City.
Rescuers have reported 17 of the 92 passengers and crew on board died. Their names were not made available.
AFP chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana told reporters in Manila that at least 40 passengers have been rescued and are undergoing treatment at the 11th Infantry Division Hospital in Busbus town, Sulu.
Sobejana said the aircraft with tail #5125 tried to land at the airport in Jolo but crashed in nearby Patikul town. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)