The crash of the Marine Corps KC-130 on July 10th took the lives of all 16 service members on board. 15 were Marines, one was a Sailor. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, though it is believed to have originated with the KC-130 itself. The Marine Corps has now identified the crash victims.
The plane left Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina and headed west toward Naval Air Facility El Centro in California. Late in the afternoon on the 10th, the plane crashed in a soybean field in Mississippi.
“On behalf of the Marine Corps Reserve, I extend my deepest sympathies to the loved ones of those who perished in last night’s tragedy,” said Lt. Gen. Rex C. McMillian in a statement. “The Marines and Sailor involved in this incident were among our finest. They dedicated their lives to our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. They will never be forgotten.”
Cpl. Daniel I. Baldassare, 20, from Monmouth, New Jersey, USMC
Cpl. Collin J. Schaaff, 22, from Pierce, Washington, USMC
Sgt. Julian M. Kevianne, 31, from Dallas, Texas, USMC
Sgt. Owen J. Lennon, 26, from Rockland, New York, USMC
Sgt. Chad E. Jenson, 25, from Los Angeles, California, USMC
Sgt. Talon R. Leach, 27, from Callaway, Missouri, USMC
Sgt. Joseph J. Murray, 26, from Duval, Florida, USMC
Sgt. Dietrich A. Schmieman, 26, from Benton, Washington, USMC
Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan M. Lohrey, 30, from Middletown, Indiana, Navy
Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Snowden, 31, from Dallas, Texas, USMC
Staff Sgt. Robert H. Cox, 28, from Ventura, California, USMC
Staff Sgt. William J. Kundrat, 33, from Frederick, Maryland, USMC
Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Hopkins, 34, from Chesapeake, Virginia, USMC
Gunnery Sgt. Brendan C. Johnson, 45, from Chittenden, Vermont, USMC
Capt. Sean E. Elliott, 30, from Orange, California, USMC
Maj. Caine M. Goyette, 41, from Waterford, New York, USMC.
“The Commands’ top priority right now is caring for the families of our fallen. We ask for continued prayers and support during this difficult time and as the families begin the long process of grief and recovery,” Col. Steven Grass, deputy commander of Marines Special Operations Command (MARSOC), said at a press conference Friday. “Our hearts are with them and I assure you we are focusing all the resources available from both the Marine Corps and Special Operations Command to help them through this tragedy.”
If you’d like to help support the families of the fallen heroes, please donate to the Brothers in Arms Foundation, a 501(c)3 charity working directly with the families.
While the servicemen on the aircraft are being identified, eyewitnesses on the ground are speaking about what they saw. Clarence Garrard spoke with the New York Times. He heard a noise from the sky and turned to watch the plane descending. He said he saw one parachute open. “I felt like the pilot was still steering it to keep it from landing in the [nearby catfish] ponds,” he told the Times.
David Habig, a crop-duster pilot, was in the air when the plane went down. The Sheriff called him in to verify the reports that were being phoned in from witnesses. “Lo and behold, all I see are bodies out in the bean field,” he told the Times. “They were everywhere. It was horrific. I’d never seen anything like it.”
“They were getting calls that something was on fire,” he said. “I don’t think they knew it was going to be that bad.”
“I could see holes in the beans. I knew what it was. You could see what they were wearing. They looked like they were in civilian clothes to me,” he said. “Most that I saw had on gray breeches.”
The crash spread debris over a 5 mile area. As the families of the victims continue to deal with the tragedy, the Corps is working to understand the accident itself. The KC-130 is a workhorse, and part of an aging fleet of aircraft the Marines rely on for their daily operations, here and abroad. All measures are being taken to ensure that this accident is understood.