ITTA BENA, Miss. (AP/WNCN) — Seven of the U.S. troops killed in the Mississippi plane crash were special operations forces based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Six were Marines and one was a sailor.
The Marine Corps refueling and cargo plane went down in a soybean field on Monday and killed 16 military members in all. The Marines said Tuesday that the air tanker was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, and headed to California.
One of the plane's stops was in North Carolina, presumably to pick up the seven commandos. The plane was scheduled to drop them and their equipment off for training at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, and fly on to a naval air field at El Centro, California. The seven commandos were from the Camp Lejeune-based 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.
Officials have not released the names of those killed. The crash is under investigation.
Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns said in a statement that a KC-130 “experienced a mishap” Monday evening but provided no details. The KC-130 is used as a refueling tanker.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) sent a tweet Tuesday morning confirming that the plane was from Cherry Point.
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and the Havelock community are in our thoughts and prayers.— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) July 11, 2017
CBS News also confirmed that the plane was from Cherry Point.
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 corkscrewing downward with one engine smoking.
“You looked up and you saw the plane twirling around,” he said. “It was spinning down.”
Jones said the plane hit the ground behind some trees in a 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.
“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 U.S. Highway 82, more than a mile from the crash site.
Greenwood Fire Chief Marcus Banks told the Greenwood Commonwealth that debris from the plane was scattered in a radius of about 5 miles (8 kilometers).
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. He said the fire was punctuated by the pops of small explosions.
Officials did not release information on what caused the crash.
Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, issued the following statement after a KC-130 from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point crashed in Mississippi, tragically killing at least 16 on board:
"Susan and I send our deepest condolences to the families of the Marines who lost their lives in service to our nation. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and the Havelock community are in our thoughts and prayers. This is a tragic reminder of the dangers our servicemembers are confronted with on a daily basis, including the training missions that are needed to help keep our nation safe at home and abroad."
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the WFMY News 2 App now.