Worst Marines crash since ’05 leaves 16 dead

Spe­cial-ops team was Ariz.-bound

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ro­ge­lio V. So­lis and Emily Wagster Pettus

ITTA BENA, MISS.» In­ves­ti­ga­tors picked through de­bris across a fire-black­ened soy­bean field Tues­day to try to de­ter­mine why a U.S. mil­i­tary plane slammed into the ground, killing all 16 peo­ple aboard in the dead­li­est Ma­rine crash any­where in the world in more than a decade.

The KC-130 air tanker was car­ry­ing mem­bers of an elite Ma­rine spe­cial op­er­a­tions unit cross­coun­try for train­ing in Ari­zona when it went down Mon­day af­ter­noon in the Mis­sis­sippi Delta, the mil­i­tary said. The fiery crash scat­tered wreck­age for miles around and sent a pil­lar of black smoke ris­ing over the coun­try­side.

Wit­nesses said they heard low, rum­bling ex­plo­sions when the plane was still high in the sky, saw the air­craft spi­ral­ing to­ward the flat, green land­scape and spot­ted an ap­par­ently empty para­chute float­ing to­ward the ground.

Fif­teen Marines and a Navy sailor were killed. Their iden­ti­ties were not im­me­di­ately re­leased.

The crash hap­pened out­side the small town of Itta Bena, about 85 miles north of the state cap­i­tal, Jack­son. Bod­ies were found more than a mile from the plane.

It was the dead­li­est Ma­rine Corps air disaster since 2005, when a trans­port heli­copter went down dur­ing a sand­storm in Iraq, killing 30 Marines and a sailor.

The Ma­rine Corps said the cause was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion and of­fered no in­for­ma­tion on whether the plane is­sued a dis­tress call.

FBI agents joined mil­i­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tors, although Ma­rine Maj. An­drew Aranda told re­porters that no foul play was sus­pected.

“They are look­ing at the de­bris and will be col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion off of that to fig­ure out what hap­pened,” Aranda said. The county coro­ner, mean­while, brought in body bags to re­move the dead.

The plane was based at Ste­wart Air Na­tional Guard Base in New­burgh, N.Y.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.