Military cargo plane crashes in Georgia

Emergency crews are responding to a military plane crash near Savannah, Georgia, according to Gena Bilbo, the public information officer for Effingham County Sheriff's Office.

Posted: May 3, 2018 3:35 PM
Updated: May 3, 2018 3:35 PM

All nine people aboard an aging cargo plane making its final military flight Wednesday were killed when the aircraft nosedived onto a Georgia highway.

The Puerto Rico Air National Guard WC-130 was carrying nine crew members when it crashed, the Guard said in a statement. It was flying from the coastal city of Savannah, Georgia, to Tucson, Arizona, where it was to be decommissioned.

The plane involved in Wednesday's crash was at least 50 years old, according to an official familiar with the aircraft.

"Nine crew members died in the accident, but until their families and relatives are notified, we cannot give their names," Brig. Gen. Isabelo Rivera said. "Our prayers, thoughts and condolences to the families and loved ones of our aviators."

One witness said the plane made a "loud, strange noise" just before the crash. Another said the ground shook as if a bomb went off when it hit.

Video from a business near the crash shows the horrifying final moments of the hulking plane, a version normally outfitted to do weather reconnaissance.

The jet, with four turboprop engines on its overhead wing, banks left as it comes down. The plane then heads straight down behind trees. Seconds later a fireball and thick black smoke appear.

Puerto Rico's governor sent his condolences.

"While we are waiting for more information regarding this unfortunate accident, my thoughts and those of Beatriz are with the families of the crew. They will receive our support and that of the National Guard of Puerto Rico in this process," Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said.

President Donald Trump tweeted his support.

"Please join me in thoughts and prayers for the victims, their families and the great men and women of the National Guard," he said.

All the airmen were from Puerto Rico, officials said.

Step inside a WC-130

Witness calls pilot a hero

Truck driver Roger Best works for a transportation company in Garden City, about 4 miles south of the crash, and saw the plane overhead before it plummeted. It was so low when it passed over that it rumbled the ground beneath his rig, he said.

His company handles hazardous materials, he said, expressing gratitude that the aircraft didn't crash in his immediate vicinity.

"If he did this area is a giant bomb and this whole (five-mile) radius would have blown up," he told CNN over Facebook, calling the pilot a hero for avoiding the area. "He barely made it over the tree line (and it) looked as if he tried to turn and nose dive straight into the ground right in front of me."

Christian Freeman saw the WC-130 go down, he said. First, he heard a "loud, strange noise," he said.

"I looked over to my right and seen the plane at very low altitude and making a hard left turn to the ground," he said.

It happened so quickly, he didn't have a chance to pull his phone out until after it exploded, Freeman said.

"It was horrible," said Denver Goodwin, who works at a wrecker service down the street from the crash. "The ground shook like a bomb was going off. All the people in the building started panicking. It was absolutely horrible."

Mary Hennessy Cogar was at her place of employment in Garden City and said she felt the impact.

"Our building shook and the lights flickered. We heard a boom of the crash and then a louder boom of the explosion," she said.

A tweet from the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association showed the tail of the plane protruding from thick smoke and fire.

There were no injuries on the ground.

"As far as we know, no cars were hit, which is an absolute miracle," said Gena Bilbo, spokeswoman for the Effingham County Sheriff's Office.

The crash occurred a few miles away from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, off state Highway 21, airport spokeswoman Candace Carpenter said.

Cause of crash not yet known

Maj. Paul Dahlen said the plane, from the 156th Airlift Wing in Puerto Rico, had been in Savannah for "a number of days" undergoing routine maintenance before heading to the Aerospace Regeneration and Maintenance Group in Arizona.

"We don't know the cause of the crash," he said.

The WC-130 is a variant of the C-130. Produced continuously since 1954, the C-130 is a reliable and versatile aircraft with several iterations. It can be outfitted for transport, reconnaissance, search and rescue, research, refueling, patrol or as a gunship.

Last month, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, released a statement saying the "readiness of the military is at a crisis point" after reports that 16 American service members had been killed in noncombat aircraft crashes over a matter of weeks.

Last summer, the Marine Corps ground its fleet of KC-130Ts, another variant of the C-130, following a crash that killed 15 Marines and one sailor in Mississippi.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35712

Reported Deaths: 2207
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion10037594
Lake3806202
Allen174371
Cass15927
Elkhart143529
St. Joseph132035
Hamilton118094
Hendricks118074
Johnson1120110
Madison59761
Porter55329
Clark52841
Bartholomew52238
Howard43734
LaPorte43624
Tippecanoe4214
Shelby39822
Jackson3942
Delaware38740
Hancock34928
Floyd32140
Boone31835
Vanderburgh2902
Morgan28324
Noble25121
Montgomery24417
Clinton2401
White2389
Decatur23031
Grant22123
Dubois2053
Harrison19622
Henry18412
Vigo1758
Greene17125
Dearborn17021
Monroe17012
Warrick16728
Kosciusko1661
Lawrence16524
Marshall1472
Miami1411
Putnam1377
Orange13122
Jennings1314
Scott1223
Franklin1158
Ripley1086
LaGrange1022
Daviess9516
Carroll933
Steuben872
Wayne865
Wabash802
Fayette797
Newton7810
Jasper701
Jay530
Clay522
Washington511
Rush503
Randolph503
Fulton501
Pulaski490
Jefferson471
Whitley443
DeKalb431
Starke393
Sullivan371
Owen341
Perry340
Huntington342
Brown331
Benton320
Wells320
Knox310
Blackford272
Tipton261
Crawford240
Fountain222
Switzerland210
Spencer211
Adams201
Gibson182
Parke180
Posey160
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin120
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0175

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36792

Reported Deaths: 2300
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin6112290
Cuyahoga4669247
Hamilton2739164
Marion267931
Lucas2296256
Pickaway209537
Summit1487181
Mahoning1463188
Butler93333
Columbiana88952
Stark75299
Lorain70960
Montgomery69516
Trumbull58451
Belmont43914
Warren39021
Medina36623
Miami36230
Tuscarawas3604
Ashtabula34537
Delaware34414
Portage33257
Lake31812
Fairfield3108
Clark3067
Wood30348
Geauga29533
Wayne28851
Licking26510
Mercer2207
Clermont2165
Allen21433
Richland2093
Darke18423
Erie18216
Madison1627
Washington11819
Crawford1174
Morrow1071
Ottawa10217
Greene1025
Putnam9514
Sandusky8512
Monroe7914
Auglaize763
Ross732
Hocking705
Jefferson672
Hardin640
Huron601
Williams561
Union551
Muskingum521
Hancock511
Shelby463
Holmes463
Clinton451
Fulton450
Wyandot442
Coshocton400
Logan400
Fayette400
Preble391
Guernsey362
Defiance342
Carroll313
Brown301
Lawrence300
Champaign281
Highland261
Knox251
Seneca242
Vinton212
Ashland210
Perry191
Athens181
Henry170
Scioto170
Paulding140
Jackson140
Adams101
Harrison100
Pike90
Gallia81
Van Wert70
Noble60
Meigs60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Angola
Broken Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 61°
Huntington
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
Decatur
Overcast
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 72°
Van Wert
Overcast
72° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 72°
Warm & Humid Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events