Mississippi KC-130T Plane Crash Deadliest in a Decade

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Early in the evening of July 10, 2017, a Marine Corps KC-130T plane experienced a catastrophic mechanical failure at cruise altitude and crashed in Leflore County, Mississippi, killing 15 Marines and one Navy Corpsman. There were no survivors. The probable cause of the crash remains under investigation.

The plane departed from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina and was transporting personnel and equipment to the Naval Air Facility, El Centro, California. According to reports, the military plane went down at around 4:00 p.m. in a soybean field between the cities of Itta Bena and Moorhead.

Crash Updates

The aviation accident is the deadliest the Marine Corps has experienced in more than a decade. If you lost a loved one in this tragedy and are interested in learning more about your legal rights, contact the aviation attorneys at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman today for a free case evaluation, or call 800-827-0087.

What Caused the KC-130 Military Plane Crash?

According to Marine Brig. Gen. Bradley James, the crash left two "large impact areas." One of the impact areas was a half mile north of US Route 82, and the other about a half mile south of the highway. The remains of the deceased were found at both impact areas, and debris from the ill-fated flight was scattered over several miles.

Given the impact zones and large debris field, aviation attorney and Marine Corps veteran Timothy Loranger believes that the plane must have experienced some kind of in-flight catastrophic mechanical failure.

"While the investigation into this tragedy is still in the early stages, it appears that the aircraft experienced a mechanical failure related to one of its four engines at cruising altitude that caused an in-flight breakup and the pilots to lose control," said Loranger, who worked on the Lockheed C-130 Hercules during his years of service in the Marine Corps. "I would hope, and expect, that an examination of the propeller systems will be conducted to determine if a malfunction of one of them could have initiated the catastrophe."

"The KC-130 Hercules has long been considered a workhorse of the Marine Corps, used for refueling of other aircraft, as well as transporting personnel and equipment. While these aircraft are traditionally thought of as being reliable, many who work on them and fly them know that they can, at times, be temperamental."

The military is conducting an investigation into the Mississippi plane crash. A final report on the cause of the crash is not expected to be released for several months.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Navy Corpsman and my fellow Marines who lost their lives," said Loranger. "This tragedy requires a thorough investigation and appropriate steps to avoid a repeat in the future."

Witnesses Recall the Horror of the Mississippi Military Plane Crash

Area resident Andy Jones first noticed the plane as it was falling from the sky. Jones initially thought the aircraft must have been a stunt plane, because it looked as if it were blowing smoke from the back. It soon dawned on him that the aircraft was in trouble, and that the smoke he saw was actually coming off one of the wings.

"It didn't take me very long to realize it was something that was about to be very tragic," said Jones.

David Habig, a crop duster pilot, was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the KC-130 military plane crash. He found the aircraft upside down and engulfed in flames with bodies lying in the soybean field. "They were everywhere," Habig said. "It was horrific...I'd never seen anything like it."

Victims of the Mississippi Marine Plane Crash

According to the New York Times, six of the Marines and the Navy Corpsman involved in the KC-130 military plane crash belonged to the Second Marine Raider Battalion, part of the Marines' Special Forces Command based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Created in 2006, the command consists of about 2,800 troops, making it the newest and smallest of the military's elite special operations forces.

Mississippi KC 130 T Victims

Staff Sgt. Robert H. Cox - Staff Sgt. Cox was a critical skills operator from Ventura, California. He began his career in the Marine Corps roughly 10 years ago, and was deployed overseas four times, according to military records.

Sgt. Chad E. Jenson - Sgt. Jenson was a critical skills operator from Los Angeles. He made sergeant in 2014.

Staff Sgt. William Kundrat - Staff Sgt. Kundrat completed a tour in Iraq before joining a Unit of Marine Special Ops Command. He married in 2004 and had two children. Staff Sgt. Kundrat joined the Marines right out of high school.

Sgt. Talon R. Leach - Sgt. Leach deployed overseas last year as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the United States' campaign against the Islamic State. He joined the Marines in 2010.

Petty Officer Second Class Ryan Lohrey - PO2 Lohrey was the sole Navy Corpsmen aboard the ill-fated flight. He enlisted after finishing high school in Middletown, Indiana and later served in two combat theaters overseas. PO2 Lohrey married in June and had two children. He had previously been awarded the Purple Heart.

Sgt. Joseph J. Murray - Sgt. Murray was the son of military veterans who enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school. He was a husband and a father of four children, all younger than five years of age. Sgt. Murray's Christian faith was central to his life, and he was known to hum praise and worship songs while on patrol.

Sgt. Dietrich A. Schmieman - Raised in Washington State, Sgt. Schieman joined the Marines at age 19 with the intention of serving in Special Ops. Before he joined the elite Raider Command, he served in a reconnaissance unit. He was 26.

The other nine Marines who perished in the crash were members of the Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron based in Newburgh, New York.

Cpl. Daniel I. Baldassare - Cpl. Baldassare was the crewmaster of the downed transport plane. He grew up in Colts Neck, New Jersey and knew as a child that he wanted to be a Marine. On his Twitter account this month, the 20-year-old wrote that he missed boot camp.

Capt. Sean E. Elliott - Capt. Elliott was one of the pilots at the controls of the KC-130T plane. When he was a child, he imagined himself flying C-130's. According to his father, he would carry a model of the C-130 Hercules to bed with him.

Maj. Caine M. Goyette - The highest-ranking Marine on the flight, Maj. Goyette had been in the military since 1994. He was an aircraft commander who served in three overseas deployments, most recently in 2014.

Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Hopkins - Gunnery Sgt. Hopkins was from Chesapeake. Gunnery Sgt. Hopkins enjoyed outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Gunnery Sgt. Brendan C. Johnson - At age 46, Gunnery Sgt. Johnson was months away from retiring from the Marine Corps. He and his wife were considering a move to Montana. Gunnery Sgt. Johnson studied fine arts in Vermont before his military career. Both his father and grandfather also served.

Sgt. Julian M. Kevianne - Sgt. Kevianne was a flight engineer who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2009. He was married and lived in New Windsor, New York.

Sgt. Owen J. Lennon - Sgt. Lennon, 26, was a football and tennis player who developed an interest in mechanics after joining the Marines. He was considering a career in aviation mechanics after finishing his military service.

Cpl. Collin J. Schaaff - Cpl. Schaaf was an aircraft ordnance technician from Washington State having completed nearly four years of service. He was promoted to the rank of Corporal in December 2015.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Snowden - Staff Sgt. Snowden enlisted in the Marine Corps right after graduating from high school in 2004. He was a flight engineer and a proud Texan who loved the Dallas Cowboys.

KC-130 Military Plane Crash Updates

August 8, 2017

Whistleblower Raised Concerns Linked to Military Aircraft Safety

A whistleblower who worked as a civilian aeronautical-engineering technician reportedly raised red flags regarding aircraft maintenance and testing before he was fired from his job in June 2017. Glenn Schwarz alleged he was given a technical job that he did not have the qualifications-including the proper training-to do. That job involved calibrating vital equipment that was used to test weapons and equipment involved in aircraft support, including fueling. Furthermore, Schwarz alleged he was never given the proper training to carry out that job.

Schwarz's allegations cast a new shadow on the recent crash of the Marine Corps KC-130, which crashed in Mississippi in early July 2017. The plane had left from the Marine Corps Station in Cherry Point, which was the location Schwarz first made safety disclosures about.

Among Schwarz's safety complaints were improper testing of aircraft fueling equipment, improper testing of jet fuel and improper disposal of jet fuel. Some fuel hoses and fuel truck gauges were reportedly not properly tested in years, possibly allowing contaminants to enter a plane's jet fuel and leading to potentially deadly malfunctions.

Wingman Foundation Donations for the 'Yankees' Families

The Wingman Foundation created a donation page for the families of Reserve Marine Corps KC-130T Hercules squadron, known as the "Yankees," based at Stewart Air National Guard Base. All donations will be given directly to squadron families to help with current and future expenses. By donating, you will be helping families fund airfare, hotels, rental cars, meals, and even unit memorials.

About the Aircraft: KC-130 Plane

The downed KC-130T plane belonged to Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron 452 (VMGR-452), which is Marine Corps Forces Reserve unit based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York.

The KC-130 aircraft is the extended-range tanker version of the KC-130H, otherwise known as the Hercules. The KC-130T, the model that crashed in Mississippi, was produced by Lockheed Martin between 1983 and 1995. The military is in the process of phasing out the KC-130T in favor of a newer model, the KC-130J. The Stewart squadron is actually the last Marine Unit still flying the Lockheed KC-130T.

C-130 Hercules Aircraft

The C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop aircraft originally designed and built by Lockheed Martin. The C-130H is one of the longest continuously produced aircraft in the history of the U.S. military, with more than 2,500 built.

The Hercules is considered a highly adaptable aircraft that has been used in military service for over 60 years. Variations of the C-130H have been manufactured for use as aerial gunships, for landing on snow and ice and for electronic warfare. The most recent variant, the C-130 Super Hercules, is the only Hercules aircraft still in production.

Baum Hedlund Military Aircraft Crash Cases

The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has represented victims in some of the worst aviation accidents in history. Our team of experienced aviation attorneys has litigated on behalf of over 650 air passengers, flight crew members and ground victims in personal injury and wrongful death claims in the U.S. and around the world.

Our firm handles military aircraft accidents involving American aircraft parts manufacturers and crashes involving civilian-performed maintenance.

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Below are some examples of military aircraft crash cases we have handled:

March 16, 2013 - Kiowa Warrior OH-58D Military Helicopter Crash, Kandahar, Afghanistan - We represented the families of two Army servicemen in a lawsuit against the engine parts manufacturers of a military helicopter that crashed outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan. The crash killed one pilot and left the other with severe disabilities.

The lawsuit was filed in March of 2015 and has since been resolved.

August 8, 2011 - AH-6M "Little Bird" Military Helicopter Crash, Fort Benning, Georgia - Our firm filed a military aviation crash lawsuit on behalf of the family of Steven Redd, a decorated combat veteran who was killed in an AH-6M "Little Bird" military helicopter crash in Georgia. The lawsuit alleged that the helicopter experienced a failure of its Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC).

Chief Warrant Officer Steven Redd and Captain David Hortman were flying the AH-6M helicopter in a routine training exercise at Ft. Benning, Georgia in August of 2011 when components of the Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system failed, according to the lawsuit. Even after the pilots performed the prescribed emergency procedures, neither were able to regain control of the aircraft, which hit the tops of trees before impacting with the ground.

Through manufacturing flaws and quality assurance failures, the lawsuit claims that the defendants (Goodrich Corporation, Goodrich Pump and Engine Controls, Rolls-Royce of North America, Inc., Allison Engine Company, Boeing Company and MD Helicopters) allegedly provided an unreliable and defectively manufactured helicopter, engine, fuel control system, and other flight system components, which resulted in the military helicopter crash that killed both Hortman and Redd.

This case is set to go to trial in 2018.