A US Marine Corps transport plane crashed in rural western Mississippi on Monday afternoon, killing all 16 service members who were on board, officials said.
The KC-130, an aircraft that the Marines can use to refuel planes in the air as well as carry cargo, crashed in Leflore County at about 4 p.m. CT, the service said.
Federal Aviation Administration officials contacted the Marines when the aircraft disappeared from air traffic control radar over Mississippi, officials said.
The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known, the Marines said. The plane went down just off US 82, about 85 miles north of Jackson, with debris found on both sides of the highway, CNN affiliate WDBD reported.
The flight originated from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in eastern North Carolina, the Marines said. The service hasn’t commented on the crew’s mission, the itinerary or the destination.
CNN affiliates WDBD and WHBQ, citing officials they didn’t name, reported the plane had stopped in Memphis, Tennessee.
The service members’ names weren’t immediately released.
“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 Marines said in a news release.
Flames and dark smoke rose from part of the wreckage in a field off the highway, video from WDBD showed.
President Donald Trump called the crash “heartbreaking” on Twitter.
“Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all!” the President tweeted.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who had long service as a Navy SEAL, was among officials posting condolences on social media. “Please join me in praying for or sending good thoughts to the families and unit of the Marines we lost tonight in the C 130 crash,” Zinke wrote on Twitter.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, posted on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by the loss of life in today’s @USMC KC-130 crash in the Mississippi Delta. Our thoughts & prayers are w/everyone involved.”
The KC-130 is a Marines variant of the C-130 Hercules, one of the US military’s most versatile and extensively used aircraft.
Often used for airborne refueling, the KC-130 also can be used to deliver cargo, troops and equipment by landing or parachuting them in, and for evacuating fighting forces from a battle area.
The latest version of the KC-130, the KC-130J, can weigh as much as 164,000 pounds on takeoff, and has a maximum range of more than 4,200 nautical miles with external tanks, its maker, Lockheed Martin Corp., says.
2015 crash blamed on misplaced goggles case
One of the most recent crashes of a US C-130 cargo plane happened in October 2015, when one went down 28 seconds after takeoff from Afghanistan’s Jalalabad Airport near the Pakistani border as it was heading to Bagram Airfield. The crash killed 14 people.
A US Air Force investigation blamed the crash of the C-130J on the misuse of a night-vision goggles case that the pilot had placed in front of the cockpit yoke while the plane was on the ground.
The pilot put the case there to prop up part of the plane’s tail to help the loading team deal with some tall cargo, but the case was never removed, and when the plane’s nose pitched up too far, the case blocked the yoke when the pilot tried to move it forward, the investigation report said.