The crew of a US military cargo plane that civilians desperately hung onto before plunging to their deaths during the chaotic evacuation of Afghanistan was cleared of wrongdoing, according to a report.
Ten months after the disturbing caught-on-camera scene, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations told Military.com on Monday the crew who manned the C-17 Globemaster III was found to have done nothing wrong after taking off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
The probe was announced last August after human remains were found in the aircraft’s wheel well once the plane landed at a Qatar base. It’s unclear when a determination into the case was made.
The Office of Special Investigations told Military.com the crew worked “during an unprecedented evacuation where resources were constrained to on-going security and evacuation activities.
“The Staff Judge Advocate offices from both the Air Mobility Command and the United States Central Command conducted a review of the inquiry findings and rendered concurring opinions that the aircrew was in compliance with applicable rules of engagement specific to the event and the overall law of armed conflict,” Office of Special Investigations spokesperson Linda Card told the outlet.
Leading up to the hectic departure, the aircraft was surrounded by Afghans seeking refuge from the Taliban in the final days of America’s longtime presence in the country.
The footage of civilians falling from the plane after taking off quickly became a symbol of the disorderly departure. It’s unknown how many civilians died as a result of the jarring scene.
Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told Military.com that the crew made the right call and is flying again.
“The aircrew’s airmanship and quick thinking ensured the safety of the crew and their aircraft,” Stefanek said in a statement. “After seeking appropriate care and services to help cope with any trauma from this unprecedented experience, the crew returned to flight status.”
“This was a tragic event and our hearts go out to the families of the deceased,” Stefanek added.