Tragedy struck the Marine Corps and all of America last night as a loaded KC-130 Hercules refueling aircraft exploded in midair and crashed into a field in Mississippi. All 16 aboard are reported to have perished.
Update: The latest news today is that 7 of those killed in the crash were with special ops from the Camp Lejeune-based 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. Of those seven, 6 were Marines, and one was a sailor. The death toll now stands at 15 Marines, and one Navy sailor. We have also ascertained that the plane that exploded was an older version KC-130 (see below for the update).
Despite President Trump’s best efforts to replace aging military equipment that fell into severe disrepair over the last decade, especially under the last administration, it takes time to do it. Unfortunately, last night we found out that we don’t always have “time.”
The Marine Corps KC-130 left Memphis, TN on Monday with 16 on board, exploded in midair and crashed into a soybean field in Mississippi.
Via MS News Now:
LEFLORE COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) – Sixteen people are dead following a military airplane crash in Mississippi, according to LeFlore County EMA Director Fred Randal
First responders said the military C-130 left Memphis on Monday.
The plane crashed in Leflore County just off Highway 82 on Monday afternoon.
The plane is believed to have exploded in mid-air. Investigators said they found debris on both sides of the highway, leading them to believe an explosion happened prior to the crash.
A Mississippi State Trooper said the plane is loaded with ammunition, causing emergency workers to have to keep their distance.
“There’s a lot of ammo in the plane. That’s why we are keeping so far back. We just don’t know what it’ll do. It burns a bit then goes out, burns a little more then dies down,” the trooper told WMC Action News 5 crews.
The United States Marine Corps confirmed the aircraft was a Marine aircraft.
The Marine Corps ordered 79 new variants of the KC-130 from Lockheed Martin years ago, but only 48 of them have been delivered. It’s unknown if the aircraft that exploded was a newer version or one that was slated for retirement.
Update: We’ve found out that the KC-130 was, in fact, an older variant of the plane. It was a KC-130T that exploded. The first of those models were delivered in ’94-95. The newest models are KC-130Js.
Via Global Security:
In December 1994 Lockheed Corporation, Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company, Marietta, Georgia, was awarded a $20,022,944 face value increase to a firm-fixed-price contract for two C-130T aircraft for the Navy Reserve and two KC-130T aircraft for the Marine Corps Reserve. The contract was expected to be completed April 1995. The newest KC-130T was accepted into the Marine Corps Reserve inventory in October 1995.
As of 2001 a top priority Marine Corps priority was the KC-130T Avionics modernization and standardization initiative. The current Reserve aircraft configuration is not fully compliant with emerging Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management or mandated Navigation/Safety requirements.
The Marine Corps tweeted out that a “mishap” had taken place.
Ammunition inside of the plane was going off due to the fire which hampered rescue efforts. Local news caught footage of the tragedy as it unfolded.
The FBI is investigating, and more victims may be found according to Fox News.
The FBI has reportedly joined local and state agencies to investigate what caused a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130 to corkscrew out of the sky and into a soybean field in Mississippi, killing at least 16.
The search for additional victims is continuing. The Marine Corps said the aircraft “experienced a mishap.” The plane spiraled down at about 4 p.m. in a field about 85 miles north of Jackson. The plane’s debris were scattered in a radius of about five miles.
Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks told The Associated Press that officials were still searching for bodies after nightfall.
“We’re still searching the area,” Banks said. “It’s hard to find bodies in the dark.”
Banks earlier told the Greenwood Commonwealth that 16 people were believed to be on board but would not confirm that information to the AP.
The Marine Corps says it operated the plane but has provided no information on where the flight originated or where it was going.
Alan Hammons, an official at Greenwood Airport, told WNCN that the aircraft suffered a “structural failure” at 20,000 feet. The Clarion Ledger reported that the plane departed from Naval Support Activity Mid-South Base in Millington, Tenn.
An intense fire fed by jet fuel hampered firefighters, causing them to turn to unmanned devices in an attempt to control the flames, authorities said. There were several high-intensity explosions.
Investigators on the ground said that the debris field was spread out which led them to believe the plane exploded in midair.
Investigators said they found debris on both sides of Highway 82 in LeFlore County, which has led them to believe that an explosion caused the crash, WLBT reported.
However, nothing has been determined as the investigation into what happened is just beginning.
LeFlore County deputy coroner Will Gnemi told the Clarion-Ledger that the crash site is a very rural area, and that they are searching in a field with tall vegetation for more bodies.
Initial reports indicate that the Lockheed KC-130 refueling tanker may have come from the Naval Support Activity Mid-South Base located in Millington, the Clarion Ledger reported.
More than 4,000 gallons of foam were used by firefighters in an effort to put out the blaze, Greenwood Fire Chief Marcus Banks told The Greenwood Commonwealth.
He said that the call about the crash came in around 4pm, and that firefighters were driven away by ‘several high-intensity explosions.’
A Mississippi State Trooper told WMC: ‘There’s a lot of ammo in the plane.
‘That’s why we are keeping so far back. We just don’t know what it’ll do.
‘It burns a bit then goes out, burns a little more then dies down.’
Marcus Banks also said that the debris field is roughly five miles in radius.
He added that a helicopter is looking for the bodies of the remaining victims.
Aerial pictures taken by WLBT showed the skeleton of the plane burning strongly, producing plumes of black smoke visible for miles across the flat landscape of the delta.
Resident Austin Jones, who owns a neighboring farm, said the fire continued after sunset.
‘It’s burning worse now than it was early in the afternoon,’ said Jones.
He said his son watched the plane go down while working on the farm and said it was smoking as it descended.
Resident Andy Jones said he was working on his family’s catfish farm when he heard a boom and looked up and saw the plane corkscrewing down to the ground.
‘You looked up and you saw the plane twirling around,’ he said. ‘It was spinning down.’
With the loss of life so high and news that more Marines may have died in the horrific crash, calls for prayer began springing up all over the internet.
The Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, posted to his Facebook: “Please join Deborah and me in praying for those hurting after this tragedy. Our men and women in uniform risk themselves every day to secure our freedom.”
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who became famous by riding a horse on his first day on the job, posted to his Twitter:
“Please join me in praying for or sending good thoughts to the families and unit of the Marines we lost tonight in the C 130 crash #SemperFi”
Many others chimed in, also. Some Devil Dogs themselves.
When President Trump was informed of the tragedy he Tweeted out condolences:
“Marine Plane crash in Mississippi is heartbreaking. Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all.”
We all have friends or family who have served or are serving. Many of us have served, some in combat, some on the homefront. Some of us have been wounded in battle, some know those who paid the ultimate sacrifice as these brave men & women did.
That said, let us offer up a prayer for the families of those who have fallen in this most tragic of accidents, as it is the families and those who live on who now shoulder a severe grief. Semper Fi, Marines.
By Jeff Rainforth
Like Jeff on Facebook
Follow Jeff on Twitter