Community Gathers In Orange County To Mourn Local Marines Killed In Military Plane Crash

ROCK TAVERN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A vigil was held Saturday night honoring the 16 service members who died in a military plane crash earlier this week.

The KC-130 was on a routine mission from North Carolina to California on Monday when it burst into flames around 20,000 feet and plummeted into a soybean field in Mississippi. Fifteen Marines and one sailor were killed.

Nine of the Marines on board had been stationed at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York.

Grieving neighbors gathered for an interfaith service held by the Rock Tavern Unitarian Universalists, which is near the base in Union County.

“We came together to affirm our common humanity and affirm that we all grieve when we face a tragedy,” Rev. Chris Attel said.

The group lit candles and signed cards to be sent to the fallen heroes’ families.

“To let the families know that we’re all here for them and we all care about them,” resident Laurie Tautel said. “It’s a small community here, and we care for them.”

Congregants and clergy members told CBS2’s Jessica Borg they did not personally know the servicemen killed. Their families were invited but did not attend.

“I’m just very sorry for them, very sorry,” said Heike Shorbach, whose son, Nicholas, is currently deployed as a Special Ops Major.

Her son trained with Sgt. Talon Leach and Staff Sgt. Robert Cox, both killed in the crash. She said their loss is heartbreaking for her son and daughter-in-law, who’s also a Marine.

“They learn to be very stoic and they realize it’s part of the job that they’re doing,” she said. “But it’s also really upsetting for them.”

The U.S. Military and FBI continue to investigate the cause of the crash, but say they do not suspect foul play.

Veteran Charlie Peace said it’s critical they find the answers they’re searching for.

“It was a massive wreck, so I hold me hope out on that – figuring out what went wrong with it,” he said.

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

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