NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Navy corpsman and 15 Marines were killed when a military plane crashed into a soybean field in rural Mississippi as it was headed from North Carolina to California.
The KC-130 plane originated Monday from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.
The refueling aircraft was taking people and equipment to Naval Air Field El Centro, California when it spiraled into the field near Itta Bena and burst into flames Monday afternoon.
The plane was being tracked by air traffic controllers in nearby Memphis, Tennesee. At 20,000 feet it suffered a catastrophic failure, plunging out of the sky. Once it started to fall, the plane went radio silent.
The KC-130 can be used to refuel other planes in midair and often carries additional fuel as a result.
Witnesses say the aircraft caught fire and spun as it fell. Bodies were found throughout the surrounding area. Plumes of thick black smoke could be seen for miles.
As CBS2’s Erin Logan reported, Many of the Marines killed in the crash were from a reserve squadron based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a tweet that he was “saddened” by the news.
President Donald Trump offered condolences to the families tweeting early Tuesday, “Marine Plane crash in Mississippi is heartbreaking. Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all!”
Parts of the plane are still largely intact and experts say it’s unlikely that an explosion brought the aircraft down, CBS2’s David Begnaud reported.
“Every resource we have will be used to help determine what happened, and every resource will be made available to the families as well,” Major Andrew Aranda said.
The Marine Corps Reserve Transport Aircraft is used to refuel other planes in midair, and often carries additional fuel.
Air traffic controllers in Memphis were tracking the four engine turbo prop plane. At 20,000 ft the plane suffered a catastrophic failure plunging out of the sky. Once it started to fall, the plane went radio silent.
Senator Jack Read, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, spoke to all Americans.
“This accident serves as a humbling reminder of the perils that our service members endure daily whether deployed to combat zones or conducting routine operations.
On Tuesday, a man at the site of the crash played taps. Seven of the victims were from special operations units at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The names of those killed have not been released.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)