Sixteen members of the US Marine Corps were killed in a military aircraft crash in the southern US state of Mississippi, US media said on Monday.
The Marine Corps confirmed that a “mishap” involving a KC-130 occurred in the evening, without providing additional details. The KC-130 is used as a refueling tanker.
The Clarion-Ledger newspaper and CNN cited Leflore County emergency management director Fred Randle as confirming the death toll of 16.
There were no survivors, he told CNN.
The incident took place around 4 pm (2100 GMT), the Clarion-Ledger said, noting that firefighters sprayed the aircraft with huge layers of foam to quell the fire.
The plane crashed in a soybean field on the Sunflower-Leflore county line, the paper said.
Photos posted on its website showed plumes of black smoke billowing from a green agricultural field.
“Please join Deborah and me in praying for those hurting after this tragedy. Our men and women in uniform risk themselves every day to secure our freedom,” Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said in a statement on Facebook.
Andy Jones said he was working on his family’s catfish farm just before 4 p.m. when he heard a boom and looked up to see the plane corkscrewing downward with one engine smoking.
“You looked up and you saw the plane twirling around,” he said. “It was spinning down.”
Jones said the plane hit the ground behind some trees in a soybean field, and by the time he and other reached the crash site, fires were burning too intensely to approach the wreckage. The force of the crash nearly flattened the plane, Jones said.
Greenwood Fire Chief Marcus Banks told the Greenwood Commonwealth that debris from the plane was scattered in a radius of about 5 miles (8 kilometers).
Jones said firefighters tried to put out the fire at the main crash site but withdrew after an explosion forced them back. The fire produced towering plumes of black smoke visible for miles across the flat region and continued to burn after dusk, more than four hours after the crash.