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Nine killed when military plane crashes near Savannah

All nine people aboard an aging cargo plane making its final military flight Wednesday were killed when the aircraft ...

Posted: May 3, 2018 10:30 AM
Updated: May 3, 2018 10:30 AM

All nine people aboard an aging cargo plane making its final military flight Wednesday were killed when the aircraft nosedived onto a Georgia highway.

The Puerto Rico Air National Guard WC-130 was carrying nine crew members when it crashed, the Guard said in a statement. It was flying from the coastal city of Savannah, Georgia, to Tucson, Arizona, where it was to be decommissioned.

The plane involved in Wednesday's crash was at least 50 years old, according to an official familiar with the aircraft.

"Nine crew members died in the accident, but until their families and relatives are notified, we cannot give their names," Brig. Gen. Isabelo Rivera said. "Our prayers, thoughts and condolences to the families and loved ones of our aviators."

One witness said the plane made a "loud, strange noise" just before the crash. Another said the ground shook as if a bomb went off when it hit.

Video from a business near the crash shows the horrifying final moments of the hulking plane, a version normally outfitted to do weather reconnaissance.

The jet, with four turboprop engines on its overhead wing, banks left as it comes down. The plane then heads straight down behind trees. Seconds later a fireball and thick black smoke appear.

Puerto Rico's governor sent his condolences.

"While we are waiting for more information regarding this unfortunate accident, my thoughts and those of Beatriz are with the families of the crew. They will receive our support and that of the National Guard of Puerto Rico in this process," Gov. Ricardo Rossell- said.

President Donald Trump tweeted his support.

"Please join me in thoughts and prayers for the victims, their families and the great men and women of the National Guard," he said.

All the airmen were from Puerto Rico, officials said.

Step inside a WC-130

Witness calls pilot a hero

Truck driver Roger Best works for a transportation company in Garden City, about 4 miles south of the crash, and saw the plane overhead before it plummeted. It was so low when it passed over that it rumbled the ground beneath his rig, he said.

His company handles hazardous materials, he said, expressing gratitude that the aircraft didn't crash in his immediate vicinity.

"If he did this area is a giant bomb and this whole (five-mile) radius would have blown up," he told CNN over Facebook, calling the pilot a hero for avoiding the area. "He barely made it over the tree line (and it) looked as if he tried to turn and nose dive straight into the ground right in front of me."

Christian Freeman saw the WC-130 go down, he said. First, he heard a "loud, strange noise," he said.

"I looked over to my right and seen the plane at very low altitude and making a hard left turn to the ground," he said.

It happened so quickly, he didn't have a chance to pull his phone out until after it exploded, Freeman said.

"It was horrible," said Denver Goodwin, who works at a wrecker service down the street from the crash. "The ground shook like a bomb was going off. All the people in the building started panicking. It was absolutely horrible."

Mary Hennessy Cogar was at her place of employment in Garden City and said she felt the impact.

"Our building shook and the lights flickered. We heard a boom of the crash and then a louder boom of the explosion," she said.

A tweet from the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association showed the tail of the plane protruding from thick smoke and fire.

There were no injuries on the ground.

"As far as we know, no cars were hit, which is an absolute miracle," said Gena Bilbo, spokeswoman for the Effingham County Sheriff's Office.

The crash occurred a few miles away from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, off state Highway 21, airport spokeswoman Candace Carpenter said.

Cause of crash not yet known

Maj. Paul Dahlen said the plane, from the 156th Airlift Wing in Puerto Rico, had been in Savannah for "a number of days" undergoing routine maintenance before heading to the Aerospace Regeneration and Maintenance Group in Arizona.

"We don't know the cause of the crash," he said.

The WC-130 is a variant of the C-130. Produced continuously since 1954, the C-130 is a reliable and versatile aircraft with several iterations. It can be outfitted for transport, reconnaissance, search and rescue, research, refueling, patrol or as a gunship.

Last month, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, released a statement saying the "readiness of the military is at a crisis point" after reports that 16 American service members had been killed in noncombat aircraft crashes over a matter of weeks.

Last summer, the Marine Corps ground its fleet of KC-130Ts, another variant of the C-130, following a crash that killed 15 Marines and one sailor in Mississippi.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 497790

Reported Deaths: 9917
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34102530
DeSoto31839398
Hinds31837622
Jackson24314377
Rankin21881388
Lee15427234
Madison14525279
Jones13772241
Forrest13412250
Lauderdale11937314
Lowndes10934185
Lamar10470135
Pearl River9431237
Lafayette8454138
Hancock7697126
Washington7365156
Oktibbeha7111129
Monroe6727174
Warren6642176
Pontotoc6609101
Neshoba6606205
Panola6460131
Marshall6386132
Bolivar6266145
Union596094
Pike5784152
Alcorn5633101
Lincoln5417134
George491879
Scott470998
Tippah465381
Prentiss464181
Leflore4627143
Itawamba4596104
Adams4570119
Tate4546109
Copiah445191
Simpson4421116
Wayne438572
Yazoo438586
Covington427394
Marion4216107
Sunflower4215104
Coahoma4115104
Leake407787
Newton380879
Grenada3692108
Stone358464
Tishomingo356391
Attala330289
Jasper328265
Winston313191
Clay306375
Chickasaw296767
Clarke290694
Calhoun277945
Holmes266987
Smith262550
Yalobusha232647
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217763
Greene215548
Lawrence211140
Perry204755
Amite203954
Webster201645
Noxubee185340
Montgomery179056
Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167438
Tunica158639
Benton147438
Kemper141241
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131237
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 813481

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1139971910
Mobile722271323
Madison51970686
Shelby37279341
Baldwin37069540
Tuscaloosa34934599
Montgomery33953725
Lee23142240
Calhoun22142470
Morgan20639372
Etowah19758496
Marshall18245300
Houston17302405
St. Clair15912337
Cullman15306290
Limestone15202198
Elmore15075284
Lauderdale14143294
Talladega13715272
DeKalb12569259
Walker11085366
Blount10094174
Autauga9893146
Jackson9789180
Coffee9182189
Dale8859181
Colbert8789200
Tallapoosa7044195
Escambia6732127
Covington6682179
Chilton6587160
Russell625958
Franklin5930105
Chambers5559142
Marion4955126
Dallas4882199
Clarke472782
Pike4719105
Geneva4564126
Winston4473101
Lawrence4264117
Bibb421686
Barbour355475
Marengo334089
Monroe330262
Randolph327063
Butler324794
Pickens313882
Henry310965
Hale309187
Cherokee299957
Fayette290679
Washington250951
Cleburne246958
Crenshaw243575
Clay240367
Macon230562
Lamar215846
Conecuh185652
Coosa178538
Lowndes173761
Wilcox167438
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131038
Greene125544
Choctaw86927
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A cold front passing through our area overnight will bring into our area some of the coolest temperatures of the season so far. We will see most of the highs this weekend only in the upper 60s to lower 70s. While overnight lows will drop off down into the 40s Saturday night.
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