Aircraft May Have Been Carrying Explosives, Witnesses Reported Midair Explosion.
The U.S. Marines and news outlets have reported the crash of a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130 Hercules four-engine turboprop aerial tanker and tactical transport aircraft on Monday Jul. 10, 2017. The crash occurred in a rural area of Mississippi over farmland. Witnesses reported a “loud explosion” before the aircraft hit the ground. There are 16 fatalities according to reports.
“The debris field spanned a five-mile radius.” according to a report on The Clarion Ledger, and that, “4,000 gallons of foam were used to combat the blaze.”
According to a report from local news station WNBD, a Mississippi airport official was quoted as saying, “The plane was being tracked by air traffic controllers in Memphis [Tennessee] and suffered structural failure at 20,000 feet that caused it to plunge into the field.”
Although the photos from the accident scene show the wings, fuselage and elevators of the aircraft still partially attached in the burning wreckage, eyewitness reports and accounts of local first responders suggest the aircraft “may have exploded in mid-air”. Some Investigators on the scene have described to media outlets that “debris was found on both sides of the of the highway” leading them to believe an explosion may have happened prior to the crash.
A Mississippi State Police Officer indicated the “aircraft is loaded with ammunition”. This may have prevented emergency crews from approaching the aircraft since unexploded ordnance could be detonated in a fire.
“There’s a lot of ammo in the plane. That’s why we are keeping so far back. We just don’t know what it’ll do. It burns a bit then goes out, burns a little more then dies down,” A State Police officer told local media outlet WMC Action News 5.
As with all aircraft accidents, the official cause of the accident will be determined following a formal investigation and issuance of an accident report. Until that report is published reports about the cause of the accident are speculative.
The KC-130 accident is somehow unusual since the Hercules family of multi-role aircraft has had a better than average safety record in both U.S. and international service compared to other military aircraft.
Only two fatal accidents have occurred in C-130s across all U.S. services since July 2012 when an Air Force C-130H crashed during forest fire fighting operations in South Dakota. Since then, only one other reported fatal accident has happened with the crash of a C-130J in Afghanistan in 2015 when a total of 14 people including ground personnel were killed.