16 dead after US military plane crashes on Mississippi farm

Images showed the crumpled wreckage engulfed in flames in a field

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 10:47pm

A US Marine refuelling tanker crashed into a soybean field in rural Mississippi on Monday, killing 16 people aboard and spreading debris for miles.

All victims were on the Marine Corps KC-130 that spiralled into the ground about 135 kilometres north of Jackson in Mississippi’s Delta region, Leflore County emergency management director Fred Randle said.

Marine Corps spokeswoman Captain Sarah Burns said that the Marine KC-130 “experienced a mishap” Monday evening but provided no details.

Andy Jones said he was working on his family’s catfish farm just before 4pm when he heard a boom and looked up to see the plane corkscrewing downward with one engine smoking.

“You looked up and you saw the plane twirling around,” he said. “It was spinning down.”

Jones said the plane hit the ground behind some trees, and by the time he and other reached the crash site, fires were burning too intensely to approach the wreckage. The force of the crash nearly flattened the plane, Jones said.

“Beans are about waist-high, and there wasn’t much sticking out above the beans,” he said.

Jones said a man borrowed his cellphone to report to authorities that there were bodies across US Highway 82, more than a mile from the crash site.

Greenwood Fire Chief Marcus Banks told the Greenwood Commonwealth that debris from the plane was scattered in a radius of about 8km.

Jones said firefighters tried to put out the fire at the main crash site but withdrew after an explosion forced them back. The fire produced towering plumes of black smoke visible for miles across the flat region and continued to burn after dusk, more than four hours after the crash.

Aerial pictures taken by WLBT-TV showed the skeleton of the plane burning strongly.

“It was one of the worst fires you can imagine,” Jones said.

He said the fire was punctuated by the pops of small explosions.

Officials did not release information on what caused the crash or where the flight originated.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press