Home » Aviation » UPDATED: Marine Corps KC-130T Crashes In Mississippi, Killing 16 Service Members, Including MARSOC Personnel


UPDATED: Marine Corps KC-130T Crashes In Mississippi, Killing 16 Service Members, Including MARSOC Personnel

A U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 252, is positioned on the flight line at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., June 21, 2017. US Marine Corps photo.

This post has been updated to include additional information from the Marine Corps and a statement from Commandant Gen. Robert Neller.

A Marine Corps KC-130T plane crashed in a field in northwest Mississippi on Monday and killed the 16 service members onboard the plane, the Marine Corps confirmed this morning, making this the deadliest Marine Corps aviation mishap since 2005.

The plane departed Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., on Monday afternoon on a personnel and equipment transport mission to Naval Air Field El Centro, Calif. The plane was flown by Marines from the reserve unit Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron (VMGR) 452, Marine Air Group-49, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve.

Among the passengers were six Marines and a Navy corpsman from the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion under Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. The Camp Lejeune-based MARSOC personnel were being transported to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona for small unit pre-deployment training.

The plane crashed around 4 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Federal Aviation Administration officials contacted the Marine Corps when the aircraft disappeared from air traffic control radar over Mississippi, according to a Marine Corps statement. The cause of the crash is still unknown. 

The Associated Press and CBS News reported that an official with the local Greenwood Airport said the KC-130 suffered a structural failure while flying at 20,000 feet altitude. Local media had also reported several explosions after the crash. A statement from Marine Forces Reserve notes that small arms ammunition and personal weapons were being transported on the plane and that an explosive ordnance disposal unit had been dispatched to the crash scene as a precaution.

The Marine Corps on Monday evening only confirmed this evening that “a USMC KC-130 experienced a mishap the evening of July 10″ and would not elaborate on the units involved or the location of departure until families of the victims were notified. The Marines’ Tuesday morning statement did not specify the service affiliation of the 16 service members aboard; however, in a confirmation hearing Tuesday morning, Navy secretary nominee Richard V. Spencer said 15 Marines and one sailor died in the crash, and the Marine Corps later confirmed that the one sailor was a corpsman in a Marine unit.

The loss of 16 lives makes this the deadliest Marine Corps aviation mishap in 12 years. Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns confirmed that the last time 16 or more people died in a Marine Corps aviation incident was on Jan. 26, 2005, when 31 died in a CH-53E crash in al-Anbar Province in Iraq. More recently, in January 2016 two CH-53Es crashed during a training event in Hawaii, killing 12. In May 2015 six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers died when a UH-1Y Huey helicopter crashed during a humanitarian assistance/disaster response mission in Nepal after a major earthquake. And in March 2015 seven Marines with the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and four Louisiana National Guardsmen died when their UH-60 Blackhawk crashed in Florida during a training mission.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement this morning, “On behalf of the entire Marine Corps, I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the aircraft mishap yesterday afternoon in Mississippi. Please keep the families of our 16 fallen service members in your thoughts and prayers. Our focus remains on notifying and supporting the families while we conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of this tragedy.”

President Donald Trump expressed his sympathy this morning via Twitter, writing “Marine Plane crash in Mississippi is heartbreaking. Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all!”

The Lockheed Martin-built KC-130T is a four-engine turboprop plane that conducts air-to-air refueling and passenger and cargo airlift. The plane has a crew of six and can carry up to 92 ground troops when used for troop transport, according to a Naval Air Systems Command fact sheet.

 

The following is a statement from Marine Corps Special Operations Command:

A Marine Corps KC-130 transport aircraft crashed in LeFlore County, Miss., on July 10 at approximately 4 p.m. CDT, with 16 service members missing and presumed deceased. The aircraft was transporting six Marines and one Navy sailor from Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command and their associated equipment for routine small unit pre-deployment training at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. All seven were from the Camp Lejeune-based 2d Marine Raider Battalion.

The identities of the service members whose lives were lost in this tragic incident are being withheld to allow time for notification of their next of kin. While the details of the crash are under investigation, MARSOC is providing all available resources and support to the family, friends and teammates of these Raiders as we all mourn this tragic loss of life.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire MARSOC family at this time,” said the MARSOC chief of staff. “The incredible demands of this dangerous and demanding calling forge some of the tightest unit and family bonds found in the U.S. military. This loss impacts us all.”

 

The following is the full statement from Marine Forces Reserve:

The Marine aircraft that crashed Monday evening was a KC-130T from Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron (VMGR) 452, Marine Air Group-49, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve. The flight originated from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., as the squadron was supporting a requirement to transport personnel and equipment from there to Naval Air Field El Centro, Calif.

The crew and passengers consisted of 15 Marines and one Navy Corpsman. Equipment on board included various small arms ammunition and personal weapons. An Explosive Ordnance Disposal team is at the scene as a precaution in the interest of safety.

The identities of the personnel whose lives were lost in this tragic accident are still being withheld to allow time for their loved ones to be notified appropriately. While the details of the incident are being investigated, our focus remains on providing the necessary resources and support to the family and friends of these service members as they go through this extremely difficult time. 

 

The following is a statement from Lt. Gen. Rex McMillian, commander of Marines Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North:

“On behalf of the Marine Corps Reserve, I extend my deepest sympathies to the loved ones of those who perished in last night’s tragedy. The Marines and Sailor involved in this incident were among our finest. They dedicated their lives to our core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment. They will never be forgotten.” 

 

The following is the full statement from Marine Corps Headquarters:

A Marine Corps KC-130 transport aircraft crashed in LeFlore County, Miss., on July 10 at approximately 4 p.m. CDT, claiming the lives of 16 service members. The flight originated from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. Federal Aviation Administration officials contacted the Marine Corps when the aircraft disappeared from air traffic control radar over Mississippi. The cause of the crash is unknown at this time; the incident is under investigation.

The identities of the service members whose lives were lost in this tragic accident are being withheld to allow time for their loved ones to be notified. While the details of the incident are being investigated, our focus remains on providing the necessary resources and support to the family and friends of these service members as they go through this extremely difficult time. More information will be released as it becomes available.

  • Forever Great

    God Bless all aboard.

  • kohana

    Prayers.

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    RIP Marines.

    I am sick and tired of our Marines dying in “mishaps.” If the USMC Air Wing were an airline, their certificate to fly would have been revoked by now. There is a problem – a big problem and it needs to gotten to the bottom of sooner rather than later. Airplanes and helicopters don’t just fall out of the sky. I don’t know if it is an equipment problem, a personnel issue, a training issue, a maintenance issue, a leadership issue, or a security issue, but we have to stop this needless waste of the lives of good Marines. The incidents mentioned in this article are all unforced errors. There should be a larger investigation into the interrelated issues involving all “mishaps” over the last 10 years to see if there is a pattern. Losses like these are unacceptable. I am not looking for scalps, I am looking for answers and solutions.

    • Redeye80

      It’s called the Naval Safety Center. Submit a FOIA request and see if you see a pattern.

      All your reasons stated affect mishaps in no particular order or of importance. As long as we have people flying and maintaining aircraft we will always have issues. The fact that those flying and maintaining are professionals and strive everyday to do the best possible job is a credit to the overall low mishap rates.

      Go back to the mishap rates of the 50’s and 60’s to see how far we have come. We are not perfect. I am not sure we can ever obtain total perfection but every Marine I flew with and who worked on my aircraft tried their best.

    • Horn

      The C-130J Super Hercules hasn’t had very many “mishaps” since its introduction. It’s actually one of the safest planes in our inventory. The majority of accidents involving the C-130J were by pilot error or were runway accidents. Eyewitness reports of an explosion before the crash could mean a possible ordnance explosion. I’m not saying the “Air Wing” doesn’t have issues, but your blanket statement is misleading. You might want to understand the situation before you shoot your mouth off. This particular plane had a good maintenance record and wasn’t very old. Chances are this wasn’t due to a mechanical malfunction; but as I’ve said, it’s too early to tell.

      • The_Usual_Suspect61

        Horn,
        If you would read for content and comprehension, you would have noted that I am referring to all the incidents involving all types of aircraft over what is a relatively short period of time. I am not focused on the C-130J, but on a string of accidents involving aircraft of the Marine Corps. From the F-18s to the CH-53s, and any other aircraft. There appears to be a problem. Maybe it is not enough actual stick time – not simulators. Maybe it is not enough maintenance dollars. I do not see a problem with one particular aircraft (other than the older model F-18s and that is mainly a function of use and time.) The Air Wing does have a problem. If it won’t stay in the air, there is not much the pilot can do. If you are willing to accept casualties like these that are preventable, you are part of the problem. The mindset has to be that everybody comes back at the end of the day when you are training. Accepting outcomes like this one that killed 15 Marines and a Corpsman, is just flat out inviting more of the same. It takes no guts to go along with the status quo.

        • Horn

          I’m acknowledging the loss of aircraft & crew is bad, that’s a given, but you are using what might not have been a mechanical malfunction as a mechanism for your outrage. I agree that the armed forces have maintenance woes due to shortage of funds and poor management, but I don’t agree with someone using a tragedy that hasn’t even been investigated yet to push an agenda. It’s not what you are arguing about that I have a problem with, but how you go about doing it. I believe it is disrespectful to those lost to do so.

      • Redeye80

        Not a J. Reserves have the T model.

        • Horn

          Thanks for the correction. I can’t remember the last time a KC-130T ever crashed.

          • Redeye80

            exactly!

    • You sound like a child mouthing off. I worked on that plane and the maintenance guidelines were upheld by everyone I served with. Just shut the f up and morn our lost services members.

      • The_Usual_Suspect61

        [email protected],
        I did not say it was a maintenance issue. I said it could be a number of things, but it seems as if there have been numerous accidents in the past 12-18 months that were most likely preventable. I am certain that you and your crews did their best in maintaining the aircraft. However, people do make mistakes – whether they are turning a wrench or sitting behind the yolk or rigging a spar or putting the skin on the wings at Lockheed.

  • b2

    Tragedy. RIP Marines.

    The “structural failure” and, at “20K”, caught my eye from the story mostly. Check the impact site in the beanfield from still photo. It looks like an aircraft that was out of lift and had a steady state vertical velocity in an aggrevated stall or more likely a flat spin. An aircraft that has lift and has forward velocity makes a different impacy debris field. this photo fits the “structural failure” anecdote. From the photo I don’t see a L-horiz stab crash footprint. The mishap board will figure it out.

  • Donald Carey

    How old was the plane and was it due for structural inspection? The T variant was built in 1984 and is only being used by the reserves so structural failure would be no surprise. Perhaps it is time to retire the type.

  • Kenneth Millstein

    I have no words to express my sorrow for the families of the deceased.
    MAY THEY REST IN PEACE!

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Breaking up in the way reported sounds like an explosion. I saw a news article that reported that the plane was carrying ‘ordinance’. I wonder of something went off inside the plane? I reckon the investigations will find out.