On Monday afternoon, in what the Marine Corps has described as a tragic “mishap,” a Marine refueling and transport plane crashed in the Mississippi Delta, killing 16 people, according to local authorities.
The crash occurred around 4 p.m. on Monday on the Sunflower-Leflore county line. The plane crashed in a rural area near County Road 547, which the New York Times describes as “a dirt road that connects acres of farmland between Itta Bena and Moorhead.”
The Tennessean reports that Leflore County EMA Director Frank Randle “confirmed that 16 are dead in the crash,” with Sheriff Ricky Banks adding that “most of them” are likely Marines.
While the Marine Corps has confirmed that a USMC KC-130 crashed, it has not yet disclosed many details, including the identities of the victims or the origin or destination of the plane.
“The cause of the crash, in an unincorporated part of Leflore County, was not immediately clear, but Chief Banks said witnesses described the plane as disintegrating in the air as it neared the ground,” the Times reports. “The chief estimated that the debris field was about three miles in diameter.”
The crash triggered an urgent search for any survivors in the rural area, the Tennessean confirming that “the FBI is assisting on the scene as well.”
A spokeswoman for the FBI said authorities do not suspect foul play.
President Donald Trump has responded to the tragic accident, tweeting, “Marine Plane crash in Mississippi is heartbreaking. Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all!”
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant posted a similar message on Facebook, writing, “Please join Deborah and me in praying for those hurting after this tragedy. Our men and women in uniform risk themselves every day to secure our freedom.”
The Tennessean provides more details about the response to the crash:
Marcus Banks told the Commonwealth that the call came in around 4 p.m. An aircraft crash truck was taken to the scene, and 4,000 gallons of foam were used in an effort to put out the fire, he said.
Firefighters were driven away by several “high-intensity explosions,” he told the Commonwealth, adding that they thought it was possibly some ammunition igniting.
The Commonwealth reports that the flight was last reported to air traffic controllers at an elevation of about 20,000 feet.