Seven of the service members killed in a military transport plane crash in Mississippi were from an elite Marine unit based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the Marine Corps said Tuesday.
The other nine Marines killed were from Orange County, New York, county executive Steve Neuhaus said. The KC-130T aircraft was based in New York, officials said.
Investigators are trying to determine why the plane crashed in western Mississippi’s Leflore County on Monday afternoon, Maj. Andrew Aranda said.
(Military investigators are in trying to find out what caused a Marine refueling plane to corkscrew into a soybean field in Mississippi. All 16 onboard the plane were killed in the crash on Monday. Courtesy of CBS Evening News and YouTube)
The transport plane, carrying fifteen Marines and a Navy corpsman, was moving personnel and equipment from North Carolina to a western base to train before deploying, the Marine Corps said.
Six Marines and the sailor were members of the 2d Marine Raider Battalion, based in Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
They were part of Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command and were traveling to the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona, for small unit pre-deployment training.
Witness: Plane spiraled to ground, nose down
A witness to Monday’s crash, Andy Jones, said he heard a loud bang while working in a field near his catfish farm.
The plane spiraled, nose down, to the ground, Jones said. One of the engines appeared to be trailing white smoke, he said.
“At first it looked like an acrobatic plane, like a stunt plane, blowing the smoke out the back” he said.
“Then all of a sudden you realized that the smoke was coming off one of sides of the wing.”
He called 911 after the crash. Jones said he didn’t see the impact because trees blocked his view.
He said he went out to the site and saw a bunch of mini-explosions coming from the crash.
President Donald Trump called the crash “heartbreaking.”
“Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all!” the President tweeted.
Near the crash site on Tuesday morning, David Weeks stopped along US 82 and played taps on a bugle, video from CNN affiliate WJTV shows.
Weeks, of Inverness, Mississippi, told CNN that he did it “to let these American heroes know their service and sacrifices were appreciated.”
(Patriot Guard, David Weeks plays taps near Mississippi plane crash honoring the 16 marine service members killed. Courtesy of Isabel Laurent and YouTube)
He is a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, a nonprofit motorcycle group that honors fallen troops.
Often used for airborne refueling, the KC-130, made by Lockheed Martin Corp., also can be used to deliver cargo, troops and equipment.
The first KC-130s appeared in 1962. Its normal range of 1,150 miles as a tanker and 3,200 miles on cargo missions gives it access to the entire war arena.
The maximum takeoff weight for the KC-130T is 175,000 pounds and its flight ceiling is 25,600 feet.
2015 crash blamed on misplaced goggles case
One of the most recent crashes of a US C-130 cargo plane happened in October 2015, when one went down 28 seconds after takeoff from Afghanistan’s Jalalabad Airport near the Pakistani border as it was heading to Bagram Airfield.
The crash killed 14 people.
A US Air Force investigation blamed the crash of the C-130J on the misuse of a night-vision goggles case that the pilot had placed in front of the cockpit yoke while the plane was on the ground.
The pilot put the case there to prop up part of the plane’s tail to help the loading team deal with some tall cargo, but the case was never removed, and when the plane’s nose pitched up too far, the case blocked the yoke when the pilot tried to move it forward, the investigation report said.
CNN’s Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne, Brian Vitagliano, Steve Almasy, Dianne Gallagher, Dave Alsup, Thom Patterson, Gisela Crespo, Ali Holston and Amanda Jackson contributed to this report.