Sunday, August 19, 2018
Military News

Some of 16 killed in Mississippi crash were special operations Marines

ITTA BENA, Miss. — Investigators picked through debris across a fire-blackened soybean field Tuesday to try to determine why a U.S. military plane slammed into the ground, killing all 16 people aboard in the deadliest Marine crash anywhere in the world in more than a decade.

The KC-130 air tanker was carrying members of an elite Marine special operations unit cross-country for training in Arizona when it went down Monday afternoon in the Mississippi Delta, the military said. The fiery crash scattered wreckage for miles around and sent a pillar of black smoke rising over the countryside.

Witnesses said they heard low, rumbling explosions when the plane was still high in the sky, saw the aircraft spiraling toward the flat, green landscape and spotted an apparently empty parachute floating toward the ground.

Fifteen Marines and a Navy sailor were killed. Their identities were not immediately released.

The crash happened outside the small town of Itta Bena, about 85 miles north of the state capital of Jackson. Bodies were found more than a mile from the plane.

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

The Marine Corps said the cause was under investigation and offered no information on whether the plane issued a distress call.

FBI agents joined military investigators, though Marine Maj. Andrew Aranda told reporters that no foul play was suspected.

"They are looking at the debris and will be collecting information off of that to figure out what happened," Aranda said. The county coroner, meanwhile, brought in body bags to remove the dead.

The KC-130 is used to refuel aircraft in flight and transport cargo and troops.

The plane was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., and officials said some of those killed were from the base. Several bouquets were left at the main gate at Stewart, which was closed to reporters and issued no immediate statement.

Six of the Marines and the sailor were from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C., the Marine Corps said. It said the seven and their equipment were headed for pre-deployment training at Yuma, Ariz.

The Marine Raiders are a special operations force that is part of the global fight against terrorism. They carry out raids against insurgents and terrorists, conduct deep reconnaissance and train foreign militaries.

Will Nobile, a catfish farmer, said he was inside his office Monday afternoon when he heard an unusually loud rumble in the sky.

"It sounded like a big thunderstorm," Nobile said. "Not one big explosion, but a couple of second-long explosions. … A long, steady rumble is what it was."

He walked outside to see what was making the noise in the cloudless afternoon and saw a "gray streak" disappear behind some trees, and then black smoke rising.

Andy Jones said he was working on his family's catfish farm just before 4 p.m. when he heard a boom and looked up to see the plane spiraling downward with one engine smoking.

"You looked up and you saw the plane twirling around," he said. "It was spinning down."

Jones said that by the time he and others reached the crash site, fires were burning too intensely to approach the wreckage. The force of the crash nearly flattened the plane, Jones said.

"Beans are about waist-high, and there wasn't much sticking out above the beans," he said.

Jones said a man borrowed his cellphone to report to authorities that there were bodies across a highway, more than a mile away.

Nobile said he drove to the site, and as he and others stood by a highway, they saw an open parachute wafting down from the sky: "It didn't look like anybody was in it." Another catfish farmer found an empty, open parachute later near a fish pond, Nobile said.

Greenwood fire Chief Marcus Banks told the Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper that debris was scattered in a radius of about 5 miles.

Jones said firefighters tried to put out the blaze but were forced back by an explosion. The Marines said the plane was carrying personal weapons and small-arms ammunition — equipment that may have contributed to the explosion and the popping that could be heard as the wreckage burned.

Comments
Howard Altman: Afghan journalist struggles to work among hazards of his war-torn home

Howard Altman: Afghan journalist struggles to work among hazards of his war-torn home

From afar, Afghan journalist Massood Sanjer has been watching horrors unfolding in his homeland with great concern.During his time here in the United States as part of a State Department-sponsored visit, the city of Ghazni was besieged by the Taliban...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
MacDill says its economic impact jumped 8 percent in three years

MacDill says its economic impact jumped 8 percent in three years

TAMPA — MacDill Air Force Base has long been a key driver of the Tampa Bay economy, spending billions on payroll, construction and retiree pensions.But just how much of a powerhouse the base is depends on how you look at the numbers presented Wednesd...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18
What’s it like for military families who have to move so often? Meet the Snelsons

What’s it like for military families who have to move so often? Meet the Snelsons

Alexandra Snelson sat on a brown leather couch between her younger sister and her mother and talked about what it’s like to pick up and move again and again as a military child.In June, she was introduced to her sixth home.She is only 10."Well, I do ...
Published: 08/13/18
Processing system will speed claims, care, new VA secretary tells Tampa crowd

Processing system will speed claims, care, new VA secretary tells Tampa crowd

TAMPA — Speaking to a gathering of the nation’s oldest veterans service organization, Robert Wilkie introduced himself Friday as new Department of Veterans Affairs secretary and touted a plan to fix one of the oldest challenges facing those who serve...
Published: 08/10/18
Howard Altman: Homeless veteran finally agrees to leave the woods behind

Howard Altman: Homeless veteran finally agrees to leave the woods behind

Thomas "T-Man" Brown called me up Wednesday afternoon with news that came as a welcome surprise.A former Army staff sergeant who works with Tampa Crossroads helping homeless veterans, Brown was exuberant."Randy the roofer is finally coming out of the...
Published: 08/09/18
SOCom rolls out plans for 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa

SOCom rolls out plans for 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa

TAMPA — U.S. Special Operations Command, which synchronizes the global war on terror, is gearing up for a new mission.The command is working to make sure the Department of Defense Warrior Games, which are coming to Tampa next year between June 21 and...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/12/18
Proponents win effort to have traffic signal installed in front of Haley VA hospital

Proponents win effort to have traffic signal installed in front of Haley VA hospital

TAMPA — They worked it like a military campaign — Operation Traffic Signal.It wasn’t exactly the Normandy landings, but lives will be saved, proponents promise, with their victory in a four-year effort to get a traffic signal installed in front of th...
Updated one month ago
Questions arise over active military burn pits as Bilirakis moves to help victims

Questions arise over active military burn pits as Bilirakis moves to help victims

PALM HARBOR — As Congress takes up legislation to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits overseas, military leaders acknowledged Wednesday that one pit still operates in Syria — as well as smaller pits throughout the Middle East where the waste tha...
Updated one month ago
Epilogue: Michael DeLong, retired Marine three-star and former CentCom deputy commander, has died

Epilogue: Michael DeLong, retired Marine three-star and former CentCom deputy commander, has died

TREASURE ISLAND — Like a lot of young men, Michael P. DeLong got some important life advice from his father.But unlike most men, Phillip DeLong was a Marine colonel and fighter pilot who had the distinction of being an ace in World War II and Korea.T...
Updated one month ago
Return of remains from Korea brings back memories for local families

Return of remains from Korea brings back memories for local families

Sharon Cook was happy to learn Friday that the remains of U.S. service members who disappeared during the Korean War were apparently being returned after nearly seven decades."I had such a smile on my face when I read about it," said Cook, of St. Pet...
Updated one month ago