Tausug men hailed as heroes in Sulu C-130 crash complete formal rescue training

Leila Vicente-Albani, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2021 02:02 AM | Updated as of Nov 18 2021 08:17 PM

courtesy of the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Wing-Western Mindanao
Tausug men, who were hailed as heroes for promptly responding when a C-130 plane crashed in Sulu on July 4, 2021, undergo a search and rescue training in the same province on Oct. 18-Nov. 3, 2021. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Wing-Western Mindanao

MANILA—Eighteen Tausug men hailed as heroes for immediately responding to a C-130 plane crash in Sulu last July are now full-fledged responders after completing formal training, a military officer said Wednesday.

Col. Dennis Estrella of the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Wing-Western Mindanao said the Tausugs took part in the search and rescue auxiliary training (SARAT) on October 18 to November 3 in Sulu.

Along with 32 other trainees from different agencies in Sulu, they were taught basic life support or standard first aid, rope rescue techniques including high-angle victim extrication, collapsed structure search and rescue, vehicle road and accident rescue, and rescue swimming and lifesaving techniques, said Estrella.

When the C-130 crashed on July 4, the Tausug men were in the middle of their Dhuhr prayer (noontime prayer in Islam).

The loud explosion prompted them to respond to the accident.

A few meters from their respective houses in Barangay Bangkal in Patikul town, they saw the large military plane in flames, and soldiers jumping out of it. Other passengers were already on the ground fighting for their lives.

Along with other official responders, the 18 civilian Tausugs ran to the crash site to help save some of the wounded soldiers, the military said.

A few days after the incident, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed gratitude to residents of Sulu who were among the first to extend help.

"To the civilians of Sulu, mainly the Tausugs, who assisted government in rescuing the passengers of the crash, maraming salamat. Shukran, shukran," Duterte said on July 6.

Estrella said giving the Tausug heroes proper training on search and rescue was another way of showing how the PAF appreciated their sacrifices and gallantry. 

After completing the training — administered by the 505th Search and Rescue Group of the PAF, the Sulu provincial disaster office and the Joint Task Force Sulu — the 18 men are now part of the PAF Search and Rescue Auxiliaries, he said.

A formal culmination event was held November 5 at the Sulu Capitol Complex, tagging the batch of trainees as SARAT CL 01-2021, with class name Tausug Heroes. 

PAF TOW Western Mindanao
Tausug Heroes with Col. Dennis Estrella, commander of the PAF-TOW Western Mindanao, and the 505th Search and Rescue Group. Photo courtesy of the PAF TOW Western Mindanao

Estrella emphasized the significance of having knowledge in search and rescue to save lives when called for.

The provincial government of Sulu conveyed its gratitude to the PAF for valuing the contribution of the Tausug heroes.

Fifty soldiers and 3 civilians died in the C-130 crash, which the military said was caused by material, human and environmental factors. It is considered the deadliest aviation accident in Philippine military history.

The military acquired the ill-fated aircraft from the United States earlier this year. It was not brand new, having been used by the US since 1988, but was in good condition and had 11,000 flying hours left, officials said. 

It was transporting Army troopers for deployment in Sulu.

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