Hundreds of Afghan civilians surrounded an Air Force C-17 aircraft Monday during chaotic evacuations at the international airport in Afghanistan's capitol, according to an Air Force statement released Tuesday. The situation forced the crew to leave the airfield as quickly as possible.
Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek announced in the statement the department would be investigating civilian deaths from the incident. It's not clear how many people died. An Air Force spokesperson confirmed to the Seattle Times the aircraft bore the markings of the 62nd and 446th Air wings, which are based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
"Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased," Stefanek said in the statement.
The C-17 landed at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to deliver equipment to support evacuations of American and Afghan civilians, according to the statement. The aircraft was surrounded before cargo could be offloaded. The crew decided to leave the airfield due to the "rapidly deteriorating security situation."
Videos widely shared on social media showed the aircraft taxiing down the runway while people ran alongside it. Some desperate to escape clung to the sides of the aircraft.
Human remains were found in the wheel well of the C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Stefanek said in the statement. As part of the investigation, the department will review video and social media posts which show people falling from the aircraft after it took off. The C-17 has been impounded to collect the remains and inspect the aircraft before it can be used for flights again.
Stefanek said the Air Force is "laser-focused" on maintaining security at Kabul's international airport to prevent something like this from happening again while processing Afghan civilians trying to leave the country.