One of the soldiers who survived the July 4 Air Force plane disaster thanks God for keeping him alive so he may fulfill his dream of serving his native province of Sulu.
In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Saturday, Sgt. Al-Ameen Sahibuddin, a native of Jolo, Sulu said, “Malaking pasasalamat ko sa Diyos naka-survive ako. Excited ako mapunta ng Jolo para makapag-serbisyo.”
Sahibuddin, who is in his 21st year of service, has been stationed in Caraga since joining the Philippine Army. He said his initial assignment was with the 26th Infantry Battalion (IB), and subsequently with the 4th Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battalion at Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City.
“Mag-rereport ako sa unit ko para mag-serbisyo sa Jolo kung magaling na ako,” said Sahibuddin, assigned to the 35IB in Patikul, Sulu.
Sahibuddin, who is one of 14 troops recovering in Camp Navarro General Hospital’s Heroes Ward (CNGH), further reiterated that he wanted to serve till he retired from the military in his native province.
Currently with a damaged hand and charred hair, the soldier described being sat near the fuselage on the journey from Cagayan de Oro to Jolo, Sulu, and holding his breath when the plane crashed in Sitio Amman, Barangay Bangkal, Patikul, Sulu.
He remarked, “Kumapit lang ako kasi natabunan din ako ng mga bagahe,” which also served to protect him as the plane caught fire.
The soldier went on to say that despite the intensity of the crash, he was fortunate not to lose consciousness and that he was able to run when he saw an opportunity and did not mind the blazing flames. He even managed to drag a few of the survivors away from the flames and remove their smoking uniforms.
When he saw the military and other first responders at the crash site, Sahibuddin said he felt relieved and grateful. He also extended his condolences to the families of the fallen servicemen.
Soldiers were being transported to Jolo by Lockheed aircraft to be dispersed to their battalions. The flight manifest for the C-130 listed 96 persons, including three pilots and five aircrews. The death toll now stands at 52, with 49 servicemen and three civilians among those killed.