The crew of an Air Force plane, on which human remains were discovered following takeoff from a chaotic scene at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, reportedly were met by mental health counselors and chaplains after landing.
Air Force Chief of Media Operations Ann Stefanek confirmed on Tuesday that "human remains were discovered in the wheel well of the C-17 after it landed" at a base in Qatar, and videos posted to social media show what appears to be bodies falling from the sky after takeoff. A report by the New York Times offered more details about the harrowing events that led to the grisly finding by the crew.
The team operating a gray C-17 cargo plane loaded with equipment and supplies for U.S. military forces helping with evacuations quickly jumped back into the aircraft within minutes on Monday and prepared to depart, pulling up the loading ramp before all the cargo was removed. That was when they saw a throng of people rush their way, officials said.
The crew was cleared for takeoff by the U.S. military, which took over air traffic control at the airport. Officials said although they knew desperate Afghans were climbing onto the wings of the plane, they were not aware of people scrambling into the wheel well where the landing gear would retract after takeoff.
Steps were taken during takeoff to remove people hanging on to the plane bearing the call sign REACH885, including military Humvees driving alongside the aircraft as it taxied to chase people away and bringing in two Apache helicopter gunships to fly low to scare people away or throw them off with rotor wash.
Some hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Verified UGC via AP)
The plane took off, but the crew soon realized they could not get the landing gear to retract fully. That's when a crew member was sent down to inspect the porthole looking into the wheel well, where "the remains of an undetermined number of Afghans who had stowed away in the wheel well — apparently crushed by the landing gear" were seen, according to the report.
The plane landed four hours later at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, after which "mental health counselors and chaplains met the anguished crew members as they disembarked," the report added.
U.S. officials have not said how many people died in that tragedy, but the Air Force is investigating the incident.
“Safety officials are doing due diligence to better understand how events unfolded,” Stefanek said in her statement.
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Original Author: Daniel Chaitin