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At Least 16 Dead After Military Plane Crashes In Mississippi


Fifteen marines and one Navy corpsman are dead after a Marine Corps air tanker carrying them crashed into a soybean field. This happened in northern Mississippi late yesterday. There were no survivors of the crash, and this is the deadliest U.S. military air crash in a dozen years. NPR's David Welna has more.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: The aircraft that plummeted into a fiery crash was a Hercules KC-130, a plane used primarily for refueling other aircraft in flight. But this one was being used to ferry service members and equipment from the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C., to the Naval air field in El Centro, Calif. A spokesman for the Marine Corps says there were also small arms ammunition and personal weapons aboard. Locals reported hearing an explosion followed by the sight of the plane spiraling as it fell to earth.

DAVID DEPTULA: It is very, very unusual to have this kind of catastrophic event occur.

WELNA: David Deptula is a retired Air Force lieutenant general.

DEPTULA: And it appears obviously that it occurred in the air, not during takeoff, not during landing, or not during air refueling operations.

WELNA: He says the KC-130 air tanker, with its four turboprop engines, has had what he calls a magnificent safety record.

DEPTULA: Even if you had a fire in one of the engines there's probably sufficient time, there are so many air fields in the United States that you could conduct an emergency landing even if the fire anti-suppressant couldn't put it out.

WELNA: An explosive ordinance disposal team was at the crash site today. And while the FBI has joined the crash investigation, a Marine spokesman says no foul play is suspected. Debris was scattered up to 5 miles around the crash site, and bodies were recovered from a mile away. The refueling plane was based at Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y. In a tweet this morning, President Trump called the plane crash heartbreaking. Melania and I, he added, send our condolences to all. The names of those killed were being withheld until their families could be notified. David Welna, NPR News, Washington.


David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.