First responders from multiple local and state agencies fight the fires caused by the crash of a C-130 Hercules cargo plane from Puerto Rico Air National Guard. The plane crashed near the intersection of Ga. 21 and Crossgate Road in Savannah, Ga. (Will Peebles/Savannah Morning News via AP)

60-year-old cargo plane that crashed in Georgia was on final trip

The C-130 cargo plane crashed in Savannah, Ga. on May 2.

An aging C-130 Hercules that rescued and resupplied U.S. citizens after last year’s hurricanes crashed onto a highway in Georgia during what was supposed to be its final flight, killing all nine Puerto Ricans on board.

After more than 60 years of government service, the huge plane was being flown into retirement in Arizona, reducing Puerto Rico’s National Guard fleet to five similar planes, two of which need maintenance and aren’t being used, Adjutant General Isabelo Rivera said.

“The planes that we have in Puerto Rico — it’s not news today that they are the oldest planes on inventory” among all National Guard planes nationwide, and they often face delays in getting spare parts shipped to the island, he said.

It’s too early to say what might have caused the plane to drop out of the sky onto Georgia’s Highway 21 moments after taking off from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. Rivera said the plane last received maintenance at the military base in Savannah in April.

All nine crew members had helped with hurricane recovery efforts as part of the 198th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the Bucaneros, which flies out of Base Muniz in the northern coastal city of Carolina, Rivera said. The squadron used the plane to rescue Americans from the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma, and later supplied food and water to Puerto Ricans desperate for help after Hurricane Maria.

“The National Guard is an extended family,” Rivera said as doctors, psychologists and chaplains gathered to meet with the victims’ relatives.

The huge plane came down so hard that the only part still intact was its tail section, said Chris Hanks, a spokesman for the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association. The fuselage appeared to have struck the median, and pieces of its wings, which spanned 132 feet (40 metres), were scattered across lanes in both directions.

Related: Plane ‘too heavy:’ Plane crash victims file class-action lawsuit

The debris field stretched 600 feet (183 metres) in diameter, Effingham County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Gena Bilbo said.

“It miraculously did not hit any cars, any homes,” she said. Eight hours after the crash, she confirmed that “To our knowledge there are no survivors.”

Motorist Mark Jones told the Savannah Morning News that he saw the plane hit the road right in front of him, and explode in a huge fireball.

“It didn’t look like it nosedived, but it almost looked like it stalled and just went almost flat right there in the middle of the highway,” Jones said.

“I’m still shook up and shaking. My stomach is in knots because I know they’re people just like me. I wasn’t that far from it and I could have just kept going and it would have been me and we wouldn’t be talking right now,” Jones said.

The U.S. territory’s Gov. Ricardo Rossello expressed his sadness, tweeting that “our prayers are with the families of the Puerto Rican crew.”

President Donald Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the crash, and sent “thoughts and prayers for the victims, their families and the great men and women of the National Guard.”

Related: Pilot likely affected by ‘spatial disorientation’ in plane crash that killed former Alberta Premier Jim Prentice

___

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Associated Press writer Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Russ Bynum And Danica Coto, The Associated Press

 

Smoke rises in the distant where an Air National Guard C-130 cargo plane crashed near an in Savannah, Ga., Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in this view from Poolers, Ga. (Minh Phan via AP)

Just Posted

Wilson returns to Pacific Crest Trail undeterred

Terrace hiker was forced to abandon journey last year due to back injury at 566-mile marker

More exported goods needed for Terrace transloading facility “financially viable,” according to report

Build-out of SIDP lands, potential for micro-LNG facilities could warrant future development

Province provides three rural grants to Terrace

Each project will receive $10,000 to boost their operations

Student rangers sought for Terrace

Young adults interested in student ranger program have until Feb. 24 to apply

Skeena Sawmills audit good overall, but fault found in tree planting

Violation only issue discovered in Forest Practices Board report

Self serve doggy-wash poised to change dog grooming industry

Add money, start spraying to wash dog in the K9000

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

For two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years

Burnaby byelection turmoil sparks debate about identity issues in politics

The Liberals still have not said whether they plan to replace Wang, who stepped aside Wednesday

B.C. woman planned to donate a kidney to her husband, then found out she has cancer

Richard Stuart needs a kidney, his wife Tracy has been diagnosed with cancer

Rookie Demko backstops Canucks to 4-3 win over Sabres

Young Vancouver goalie makes 36 saves to turn away Buffalo

Most Read