A Marine Corps KC-130, or similar variant of aircraft, crashed in Western Mississippi on Monday night, killing as many as 16 people.
Frank Randle, director of emergency management for LeFlore County, told reporters that 16 bodies have been removed from the crash site that spans over five miles. The United States Marine Corps has not yet made any public statements regarding the number of crew aboard the aircraft or if any passengers may have been on board. A source close to the incident told SOFREP that the aircraft was manned with active duty Marines, though he could not confirm whether or not any other passengers may have been involved.
The Marine Corps Twitter account issued a brief statement on Monday night, saying only that a “KC-130 experienced a mishap the evening of July 10,” and that more information would be released when available.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Lee Smithson told the media that the crash occurred in a soybean field on the Leflore-Sunflower county line, which is made up of rural woods and fields with dense underbrush.
According to local news outlets, the Marine Corps plane was being tracked by air traffic controllers at the Greenwood Airport in Mississippi when it suffered a “structural failure” at 20,000 feet. Local resident Andy Jones reported hearing a loud boom at the same time; when he looked up he saw the large aircraft “corkscrewing” down to the ground.
Firefighters attempting to douse the burning jet fuel reported having to move back as portions of the wreckage continued to explode.
“We were driven away by several high-intensity explosions,” said Greenwood Fire Chief Marcus Banks.
While these explosions could have been the result of pockets of jet fuel igniting, SOFREP’s source indicated that there were munitions on board the aircraft before it went down. The intense fire reportedly took over 4,000 gallons of foam to quell.
At a late evening press conference held by EMA Director Frank Randle, no new information regarding the nature of the crash was released, but he did advise that local residents avoid the area because of the presence of flammable jet fuel still on the scene. Leflore County Deputy Coroner Will Gnemi confirmed that the coroner’s office had arrived on the scene, but did not indicate whether or not the search for any other casualties has halted. He did note that the crash covered a wide expanse of territory covered in thick vegetation, which may indicate that the search is ongoing.
“Please join Deborah and me in praying for those hurting after this tragedy,” Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said in a statement on Facebook. “Our men and women in uniform risk themselves every day to secure our freedom.”
The KC-130 aircraft is a four-engine prop-driven variant of the time-honored C-130. The KC-130 is specifically designed to serve as an extended-range tanker capable of conducting refueling operations on the ground and in the air, though it has also proven to be a highly capable troop and equipment transport aircraft as well.
Image courtesy of Twitter