Ann Stefanek, spokeswoman for the Air Force, said Monday that investigations into the deaths revealed that the crew used sound judgment when deciding to fly as fast as possible despite a rapidly changing security situation.
The footage and other reports that were available from the day clearly show Afghans occupying the Hamid Karzai international airport in Kabul. They were desperate to escape the country after the Taliban took control and the U.S. forces began withdrawing. Military officials claim that the crew of the C-17 transport plane were surrounded when it touched down on the tarmac. They feared the plane might be overwhelmed so they took off.
Two tiny dots fell from the plane as the plane lifted off. A mobile phone camera captured the moment. Later it was revealed that the dots were actually Afghans who tried to hide within the wheel well. The wheels were folded into the plane's body, and the stowaways had to choose between being crushed to death or letting them go and plummeting to the ground.
When the plane touched down at Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, human remains were found in its wheel well.
Stefanek said, "This was an awful event and our thoughts are with the families." She stated that the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations investigated the incident, and then handed the scene over Qatar authorities who declined further investigation.
Stefanek stated that the safety of the crew as well as their aircraft was ensured by Stefanek's quick thinking and airmanship. The crew was able to return to flight status after obtaining the appropriate treatment and services to cope with any trauma resulting from this unique experience.
It is not clear how many people were killed. The two dots are seen falling from an airborne plane several seconds apart in videos. Two bodies fell from the airborne plane at the same moment, suggesting that they were one and the same person.
Later, Afghans identified the victim as Fida Mohammad (a 24-year-old dentist). Local media reported that the second body was identified by a young man called Safiullah hotak. Another victim was crushed under the wheels of the C-17 on the tarmac.