Maj. Caine M. Goyette

Maj. Caine M. Goyette

On Friday, the Marine Corps identified the names of the 15 Marines and one Navy sailor killed when their aircraft crashed earlier this week in the worst aviation accident for the branch in more than a decade.

The announcement comes two days after a Marine general told the public that early indications in the crash investigation point to some type of massive mechanical failure while the four-engine cargo aircraft was at cruising altitude. Eyewitness said they saw the plane break apart midair before crashing in a field in western Mississippi.

Brig. Gen. Bradley James, commander of the 4th Marine Air Wing, told reporters Wednesday that the plane, a KC-130 from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 452 with the call sign Yankee 72, was flying from an airfield in North Carolina to Yuma, Ariz., to transport six Marines and one sailor from the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, a Special Operations unit, when it went down.

Five of those from 2nd Raider Battalion were part of Marine Special Operations Team 8231 , according to several active and former service members familiar with the accident. The same team was involved in a 2015 helicopter crash in Florida. That crash — the result of bad weather during a training exercise — left 11 dead, seven from 8231. Although the Marines were from the same team, those who were in a second helicopter in 2015 had rotated out of the unit before Monday’s incident.

The aircraft contained the Marines’ weapons and ammunition, prompting bomb disposal teams and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to respond to the scene.

About 4 p.m. local time on Monday, the aircraft dropped off radar and crashed in fields near the town of Itta Bena, Miss. There were two distinct crash sites nearly a mile apart, and the flames from the wreckage burned well into the night. One local eyewitness told the Associated Press that he heard a boom and looked up to see the aircraft tumbling out of the sky partially aflame.

The KC-130T is an older variant of the KC-line of cargo and refueling aircraft but is part of the broader C-130 family. The Cold War-era plane is known for its toughness, multiple fire suppression systems and an above average safety record. It is unclear what could have brought it down. The catastrophe occurred so suddenly the pilots were unable to make a radio call before the crash.

The names of the dead are below. Information was provided by the Marine Corps, interviews and news reports:

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SOURCE: Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Alex Horton 
The Washington Post