The Air Force is investigating the events that led to a C-17 taking off with civilians clinging to its landing gear then falling to their deaths as the aircraft left Kabul, Afghanistan, amid a chaotic scene Aug. 16.
Videos of the C-17 departing have been seen around the world, with a mob surrounding it as it taxied at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Other videos showed at least one person falling after it took off.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is reviewing all information regarding the incident, in coordination with Air Mobility Command and other international partners.
“OSI’s review will be thorough to ensure we obtain the facts regarding this tragic incident,” the Air Force said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased.”
The C-17, tail number 2-1109, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Deployed aircraft are regularly flown by aircrews from other locations. It landed at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 16 to deliver a load of equipment to support the evacuation of both American and Afghan civilians from the country as the Taliban claimed control of Kabul.
Before the aircrew could even offload the cargo, however, the plane was surrounded by hundreds of Afghan civilians who had breached the perimeter of the airport, according to the statement.
“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.
Human remains were discovered in the wheel well of the C-17 once it returned to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The C-17 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.