Worst Marines crash since ’05 leaves 16 dead
Special-ops team was Ariz.-bound
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.