A C-130 Hercules military transport plane on a training mission crashed Wednesday along a Georgia road — killing the five members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard aboard, official said.
Capt. Jeff Bezore of the Georgia Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Wing said the Arizona-bound plane came down about 11:30 a.m. near the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.
The four-engine, high-wing plane belonged to the 156th Airlift Wing out of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico National Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen said those on board the doomed plane were Puerto Ricans who had recently left the US territory for a mission on the US mainland.
He did not have details on their mission.
“It’s a sad day for the National Guard, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of everyone involved and everyone with the National Guard as we work through this,” he said.
Savannah’s Air National Guard base has been heavily involved in hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
In September, the Air National Guard designated it as the hub of operations to the island in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the base announced at the time.
A photo tweeted by the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association showed the tail end of the plane and a field of flames and billowing black smoke.
The only part of the plane that remained intact was the tail section, said association spokesman Chris Hanks.
Witness Mark Jones told the Savannah Morning News that he saw the plane flying low.
“I could see (the plane) above the tree line and it looked kind of low like it was curving in toward street, but I see them all the time, so I didn’t think anything of it,” Jones said.
“I looked down and then looked back up and 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,” he said.
Jones said the plane exploded on impact.
“There were definitely cars going both ways … Most people stopped and got out of their cars,” he 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. They were just people driving to wherever and not expecting something like that to happen.”
Denver Goodwin, who works near the crash site, described the scene to CNN.
“The ground shook like a bomb was going off. All the people in the building started panicking. It was absolutely horrible,” he said.
Mary Hennessy Cogar, who was at work about 4 miles south of the site, said she felt the impact.
“Our building shook and the lights flickered. We heard a boom of the crash and then a louder boom of the explosion,” she told CNN.
The C-130 Hercules is the prime transport plane of the Air Force and Air National Guard. It can carry oversize cargo, from utility helicopters and armored personnel carriers to standard palletized cargo and military troops.
With Post wires