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

Aldergrove Easter event line-up for families staying local

Easter egg hunts in apple orchards, bouncy castles, facepainting, bunny-petting and more.

Young ukulele players wow Langley audience

The performance highlights several upcoming concerts.

Langley police seek new leads in hit and run cold case

Six years ago, someone struck a young woman with a car and drove off

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Langley gymnasts golden at provincials

LGF and Flip City win multiple all-around champion awards

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Man driving wrong way on Highway 17 ‘seriously’ injured after crash: Surrey RCMP

Police say the driver hit a transport truck, then another car after merging from the off-ramp onto highway

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Police pursue pesky porker on Vancouver Island

‘This was allegedly not the pig’s first escape’

Rare ‘Snow Tower’ tree blooming in Vancouver city park

A plant rarely grown in Canada is now flowering at the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

Most Read