Nine Dead as WC-130 Crashes On to Savannah Highway

Nine aircrewmen from a Puerto Rican Air National Guard WC-130 were killed when their aircraft, en route to Arizona to be decommissioned, crashed on to a highway in Savannah, Georgia.

“Nine crew members died in the accident, but until their families and relatives are notified, we cannot give their names,” said Brigadier General Isabelo Rivera, the assistant general of Puerto Rico.

All were from Puerto Rico, officials said.

The investigation, which is underway, is being carried out by the National Guard Bureau and the Air Force, he said. The National Transportation Safety Board will not be involved, according to a statement from the Chatham County Board of Commissioners.

The crash occurred moments after takeoff near Hilton Head Airport in Savannah, Georgia, Rivera said.

There were no injuries on the ground.

“We don’t know the cause of the crash,” said Maj. Paul Dahlen.

The plane from the 156th Airlift Wing in Puerto Rico had been in Savannah for “a number of days” undergoing routine maintenance before heading to the Aerospace Regeneration and Maintenance Group in Arizona, he said. AMARG, also known as “The Boneyard,” is an Arizona facility where the military keeps thousands of aircraft as well as spacecraft.

State Highway 21 will remain closed indefinitely as investigators examine the crash site and debris field, according to Chatham County.

The next briefing is expected Thursday 8:30 a.m. ET.

Video from a business near the crash showed the horrifying final moments of the hulking plane, a version normally outfitted to do weather reconnaissance.

The jet, with four turboprop engines on its overhead wing, banked left as it came down. The plane then plummeted straight down behind the trees. Seconds later a fireball and thick black smoke appeared.

The WC-130 is a weather variant of the versatile C-130 cargo plane and this one was used in Hurricane Irma and in rescue efforts.

Twitter post by Scott Cohen with his business’ surveillance video:

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Photo courtesy IAFF574 Savannah Twitter Post