USAF investigating Afghan deaths, human remains discovered in wheel well of C-17 that took off from Kabul

USAF investigating Afghan deaths, human remains discovered in wheel well of C-17 that took off from Kabul

By Dario Leone
Aug 18 2021
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Once the C-17 returned to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, human remains were discovered in its wheel well.

As reported by Air Force Magazine, the events that led to a C-17 Globemaster II cargo aircraft taking off with civilians clinging to its landing gear then falling to their deaths as the aircraft left Kabul, Afghanistan, amid a chaotic scene on Aug. 16, 2021 are being investigated by the US Air Force (USAF).

The departure of the C-17 with a mob surrounding it as it taxied at Hamid Karzai International Airport has been featured in several video that have been seen around the world. Other clips showed at least one person falling after it took off.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Air Mobility Command and other international partners are reviewing all information regarding the incident.

“OSI’s review will be thorough to ensure we obtain the facts regarding this tragic incident,” the USAF said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased.”

On Aug. 16 as the Taliban claimed control of Kabul, the aircraft landed at Hamid Karzai International Airport to deliver a load of equipment to support the evacuation of both American and Afghan civilians from the country. The C-17, tail number 2-1109, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Deployed aircraft are regularly flown by aircrews from other locations.

According to the USAF statement, hundreds of Afghan civilians who had breached the perimeter of the airport surrounded the aircraft before its aircrew could even offload the cargo.

“Faced with a rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft, the C-17 crew decided to depart the airfield as quickly as possible,” the Air Force said.

Once it returned to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, human remains were discovered in the wheel well of the C-17. The aircraft is impounded to allow crews to collect the remains and inspect the aircraft before it returns to flight.

In addition to the review, AMC safety officials “are doing due diligence to better understand how events unfolded” to ensure current and future flight operations are safe.

“Alongside our joint force, interagency, and international partners, the U.S. Air Force remains laser-focused on maintaining security at HKIA to prevent a situation like this from happening again as we safely process Afghan civilians seeking to depart the country,” the Air Force said.

As already reported, several flights were able to take off from Hamid Karzai International Airport with hundreds of people aboard.

A photo taken from inside Reach 871, a C-17 from the 436th Air Wing, based at Dover Air Force Base (AFB), Delaware, made the headlines.

Reach 871 was not aimed to take on such a large load, but panicked Afghans who had been cleared to evacuate pulled themselves onto the Globemaster III’s half-open ramp.

“The crew made the decision to go,” instead of trying to force those refugees off the aircraft. “Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination,” one defense official said.

Photo credit: A video screenshot shows throngs of people running along side a USAF C-17 preparing for takeoff at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. (YouTube)

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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