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Military Plane in Crash That Killed 16 Was Based Out of New York: Officials

All 16 people aboard the plane died in the crash; their names have not yet been released

What to Know

  • All 16 people aboard died when the military refueling plane crashed into a field in rural Mississippi Monday
  • Fifteen Marines and a Navy corpsman were on board the KC-130 plane that spiraled and crashed into a soybean field
  • The plane was based out of VMGR-452, the reserve squadron stationed at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh

The U.S. military refueling plane that crashed into a field in rural Mississippi, killing all 16 people aboard in a fiery wreck and spreading debris for miles, was based out of New York, authorities said at a news briefing Tuesday.

Fifteen Marines and a Navy corpsman were on board the KC-130 plane that spiraled and crashed into a soybean field about 85 miles north of Jackson in the Mississippi Delta Monday.  

The plane was based out of VMGR-452, the reserve squadron -- comprised of both active duty Marines and reservists -- stationed at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, officials said. The victims' identities haven't been released, and it's not clear if all the people aboard were based out of Stewart. 

"The identities of the service members whose lives were lost in this tragic accident are being withheld to allow time for their loved ones to be notified,” the Marine Corps said in a statement Tuesday. 

A Facebook page for the squadron, which calls itself the "Yankees," posted a photo Tuesday of its squadron patch with a black ribbon over it.

Lt. Col Izenour later posted on the page, "Words seem inadequate to express the sadness we feel for the loss of our brothers. Our hearts and prayers go out for the families of VMGR-452 Yankees. We ask to please respect the privacy and wishes of the families during this very difficult time of loss. We wish peace, comfort and courage to face the days ahead." 

Meanwhile, the cause of the crash remains under investigation, though investigators have said it does not appear to be criminal.

The air crew and passengers were on a leg of a flight that had originated from the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, and were headed to a Navy facility in California called El Centro when the plane went down. 

Witnesses described a harrowing scene as the plane corkscrewed downward with one engine smoking.

Andy Jones, who had been working on his family's farm at the time, said the plane hit the ground behind trees in the soybean field, and by the time he and other reached the crash site, fires were burning too intensely to approach the wreckage. The force of the crash nearly flattened the plane, Jones said.

Greenwood Fire Chief Marcus Banks told the Greenwood Commonwealth that debris from the plane was scattered in a radius of about 5 miles. 

Jones said firefighters tried to put out the fire at the main crash site but withdrew after an explosion forced them back. The fire produced towering plumes of black smoke visible for miles across the flat region and continued to burn after dusk, more than four hours after the crash.

Aerial pictures taken by WLBT-TV showed the skeleton of the plane burning strongly.

"It was one of the worst fires you can imagine," Jones said. 

President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that the crash "is heartbreaking."

Gov. Cuomo also tweeted condolences, saying he was "saddened" to hear at least some of the crew was based in New York.

"As we learn more, keep them in your thoughts," the governor said.  

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) said in a statement she was "heartbroken" to learn the aircraft belonged to the Stewart Air National Guard Base. 

"I will do everything in my power to make sure we have a thorough investigation into how this tragic accident occurred, and what we can do to prevent it from happening again," she said. 

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