Members of Special Operations Force Aboard Military Plane That Crashed

Image: Military Plane Crash
Smoke and flames rise into the air after a military transport airplane crashed in a field Monday near Itta Bena, Mississippi, on the western edge of Leflore County.Jimmy Taylor / AP

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By Phil Helsel

Six Marines and a sailor killed in a military plane crash in Mississippi on Monday were members of a Special Operations force based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a Marines public affairs officer said. Sixteen service members in all were killed.

The identities of the 15 Marines and the sailor who were killed in the crash of a Marines KC-130 plane in LeFlore County at around 4 p.m. Monday (5 p.m. ET) were not released.

Six of the Marines and the sailor were members of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion under the Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC), 2nd Lt. Stephanie L. Leguizamon said. The Marine Forces Reserve has said the sailor was a corpsman, which is a medical specialist.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire MARSOC family at this time," MARSOC's chief of staff said in a statement released by the military. "The incredible demands of this dangerous and demanding calling forge some of the tightest unit and family bonds found in the U.S. military. This loss impacts us all."

The cause of the crash is still under investigation. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Tuesday that it is assisting.

The plane left Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and was on its way to Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, when it crashed, officials said.

The seven members of the Marine Raiders Battalion were being transported "for routine small unit pre-deployment training" at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, the Marines said in a statement.

The plane crashed near a highway north of Jackson, and debris was scattered on both sides of the road, indicating a possible mid-air explosion.

Equipment on the plane included small arms ammunition and personal weapons, the Marine Reserves said in a statement. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant urged people Tuesday to stay away and said anyone finding an item related to the crash should turn it over to authorities.

The plane belonged to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452 (VMGR-452) based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, the New York Air National Guard said.

"Our focus remains on providing the necessary resources and support to the family and friends of these services members as they go through this extremely difficult time," the New York Air National Guard said in a statement.