SEVERE WX : Red Flag Warning View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Final Flight of Retired National Guard Plane Ends in Flames

Nine are reported dead after the 60-year-old C-130 crashed on its way to be decommissioned.

Posted: May 2, 2018 5:41 PM

By RUSS BYNUM , Associated Press

PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (AP) — A crew of nine Puerto Ricans were flying an Air National Guard C-130 into retirement in Arizona when it crashed onto a highway in Georgia on Wednesday, and authorities said there are no survivors.

The plane crashed onto state highway 21 moments after taking off from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, narrowly missing people on the ground and sending an orange and black fireball into the sky.

"It miraculously did not hit any cars, any homes," Effingham County Sheriff's spokeswoman Gena Bilbo said. "This is a very busy roadway."

Eight hours after the crash, she added: "To our knowledge there are no survivors."

The huge plane's fuselage appeared to have struck the median, and pieces of its wings, which spanned 132 feet (40 meters), were scattered across lanes in both directions. The debris field stretched 600 feet (183 meters) in diameter, Bilbo said. The only part still intact was the tail section, said Chris Hanks, a spokesman for the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association.

The plane was more than 60 years old, said Isabelo Rivera, Adjutant General of Puerto Rico's National Guard. Belonging to the 156th Air Wing, it was used to rescue U.S. citizens stranded in the British Virgin Islands following Hurricane Irma and ferry supplies to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria last year.

"The planes that we have in Puerto Rico -- it's not news today that they are the oldest planes on inventory" of all National Guard planes nationwide, Rivera said. Puerto Rico's National Guard has five other similar planes, two of which need maintenance and aren't being used, he said.

It's too early to say what might have caused the accident, he said. The plane last received maintenance at the base in Savannah in April.

All nine crew members had helped with hurricane recovery efforts as part of the 198th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the Bucaneros, which flies out of Base Muniz in the northern coastal city of Carolina, Rivera said.

"This pains us," Rivera said of the deaths. They aren't releasing names until all the families have been contacted, but "most of them already know and have come to the base."

Motorist Mark Jones told the Savannah Morning News that he saw the plane hit the road right in front of him, about a mile (less than two kilometers) from the airport.

"It didn't look like it nosedived, but it almost looked like it stalled and just went almost flat right there in the middle of the highway," Jones said, describing how people stopped and got out of their cars following the explosion.

"I'm still shook up and shaking. My stomach is in knots because I know they're people just like me. I wasn't that far from it and I could have just kept going and it would have been me and we wouldn't be talking right now," Jones said.

The U.S. territory's Gov. Ricardo Rossello expressed his sadness, tweeting that "our prayers are with the families of the Puerto Rican crew."

President Donald Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the crash, and sent "thoughts and prayers for the victims, their families and the great men and women of the National Guard."

___

Associated Press writers Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Jeff Martin in Atlanta have contributed to this report.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32581

Reported Deaths: 542
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah7113137
Marion465894
Washington449760
Umatilla296241
Clackamas239861
Malheur161723
Lane118517
Jackson11395
Deschutes82512
Yamhill75713
Jefferson5298
Polk52915
Linn51913
Morrow4986
Lincoln48113
Union4462
Benton3106
Wasco2893
Klamath2802
Hood River2510
Douglas2274
Clatsop2040
Josephine1982
Columbia1651
Coos1560
Baker942
Crook621
Tillamook520
Lake320
Curry310
Wallowa301
Sherman180
Harney120
Grant90
Gilliam80
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 807451

Reported Deaths: 15583
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2669886504
Riverside581781189
San Bernardino54386925
Orange530691214
San Diego46331775
Kern31865367
Fresno28199382
Sacramento22183406
Alameda21136406
Santa Clara21030311
San Joaquin20194441
Contra Costa16469205
Stanislaus16452351
Tulare15970263
Ventura12664150
Imperial11835317
San Francisco11076101
San Mateo9843150
Monterey980771
Santa Barbara9037113
Merced8872142
Kings763177
Sonoma7369122
Marin6694117
Solano630963
Madera448165
Placer356745
San Luis Obispo354429
Butte281944
Yolo279555
Santa Cruz23309
Sutter170511
Napa166913
San Benito134011
Yuba11537
El Dorado11094
Mendocino90818
Shasta80617
Lassen7400
Glenn5783
Tehama5465
Lake53911
Nevada5337
Colusa5296
Humboldt5017
Calaveras31714
Amador29616
Tuolumne2274
Inyo18715
Mono1652
Siskiyou1650
Del Norte1391
Mariposa752
Plumas500
Modoc270
Trinity160
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 85°
Brookings
Clear
87° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 87°
Crater Lake
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 74°
Grants Pass
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 62°
Klamath Falls
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 74°
Critical fire danger Monday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events