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On Friday, the Pentagon released the names of 15 Marines and a Navy corpsman who were killed when their aircraft crashed in a field in Mississippi. Investigators are now struggling to find out how a plane with a good safety record seemed to drop out of the sky. NPR's Tom Bowman has more.
TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Most of the Marines deployed multiple times to war zones, Iraq and Afghanistan. One was awarded a Purple Heart for his wounds. Others took part in humanitarian missions. Now their leadership is trying to find out how they all died on a routine flight from North Carolina bound for a training base in Yuma, Ariz. The Marines were getting ready for still another deployment.
Brigadier General Bradley James, commander of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, told reporters that it appeared something went wrong at cruise altitude. There's a large debris pattern. The general said the debris pattern was spread over a mile. Officials tell NPR that an explosive ordinance team was dispatched to the crash site and it's possible there was some kind of an explosion onboard. The aircraft, a KC-130, was carrying weapons and ammunition. Witnesses said they heard a loud boom and saw the aircraft spiraling from the sky. There was no word on when an investigation will be completed.
This was the worst Marine Corps aviation accident since 2005, when a transport helicopter went down during a sandstorm in Iraq, killing 30 Marines and a sailor.
Tom Bowman NPR News Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.