Six­teen killed in fiery Ma­rine plane crash in ru­ral Mis­sis­sippi

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

A Ma­rine Corps re­fu­elling plane crashed and burned in a soy­bean field in the Mis­sis­sippi Delta, killing all 16 mil­i­tary mem­bers aboard in a wreck that scat­tered de­bris for miles and sent a pil­lar of black smoke ris­ing over the coun­try­side.

It was the dead­li­est Ma­rine crash — in the U.S. or abroad — since 2005.

Fif­teen Marines and a Navy corps­man were on board the KC-130 tanker when it corkscrewed into the ground Mon­day af­ter­noon about 135 kilo­me­tres north of Jack­son, the state cap­i­tal, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said. A wit­ness said some bod­ies were found more than a mile away.

The Marines gave no im­me­di­ate de­tails on the cause of the crash. The FBI joined the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but Ma­rine Maj. An­drew Aranda told re­porters no foul play was sus­pected.

The KC-130 is used to re­fuel air­craft in flight and trans­port cargo and troops.

The air tanker was based at Ste­wart Air Na­tional Guard Base in New­burgh, New York, and was on its way from a Ma­rine in­stal­la­tion at Cherry Point, North Carolina, to a naval air field at El Cen­tro, Cal­i­for­nia, when it went down, of­fi­cials said.

Andy Jones said he was work­ing on his fam­ily’s cat­fish farm just be­fore 4 p.m. when he heard a boom and looked up to see the plane spi­ral­ing down­ward with one en­gine smok­ing.

“You looked up and you saw the plane twirling around,” he said.

“It was spin­ning down.” Jones said that by the time he and oth­ers reached the crash site, fires were burn­ing too in­tensely to ap­proach the wreck­age. The force of the crash nearly flat­tened the plane, Jones said.

“Beans are about waist-high, and there wasn’t much stick­ing out above the beans,” he said.

Jones said a man bor­rowed his cell­phone to re­port to author­i­ties that there were bod­ies across a high­way, more than a mile from the crash site.

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