RALEIGH A U.S. military plane traveling from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina crashed in rural Mississippi on Monday evening killing at least 16 people, a regional emergency management official said.No official details were immediately available on the circumstances of the crash in northern Mississippi’s Leflore County, about 100 miles north of Jackson, the state capital.The KC-130 Hercules transport aircraft originated from the eastern N.C. base near Havelock and “experienced a mishap,” according to Cpt. Sarah Burns, a spokeswoman for the Marine Corps.Several hours later, Fred Randle, Leflore County director of emergency management, told media that at least 16 people had perished. Randle gave no further details of the incident. The identities of the service members who were killed were being withheld until family members were notified.”Susan and I send our deepest condolences to the families of the Marines who lost their lives in service to our nation,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in a statement issued Tuesday morning. “Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and the Havelock community are in our thoughts and prayers. This is a tragic reminder of the dangers our servicemembers are confronted with on a daily basis, including the training missions that are needed to help keep our nation safe at home and abroad.”FBI spokesman Brett Carr told The New York Times that the agency was sending officials to the scene, but authorities did not believe foul play was involved. The cause of the crash was being investigated, the Marine Corps’ statement added.”We’re just trying to offer any type of assistance,” Carr, a spokesman for the bureau’s Jackson, Miss., office, told the newspaper. “It could be anything from manpower to evidence response.”Images posted online by local news organizations showed the crumpled wreckage of a plane engulfed in flames in a field surrounded by tall vegetation, with a large plume of smoke in the sky above.Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement on Facebook that the incident was a tragedy, but provided no details.President Donald Trump said on Twitter that the crash was heartbreaking. “Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all!” he wrote.Local authorities urged people who are not emergency responders to avoid the area because of fuel on the ground.The Greenwood Fire Department chief, Marcus Banks, told the Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper in Leflore County that 4,000 gallons of foam were used to extinguish the wreckage. Firefighters were at one point driven back, he added, by several “high-intensity explosions” that may have been caused by ammunition igniting.The aircraft is used for air-to-air refueling, to carry cargo and perform tactical passenger missions. The plane is operated by three crew members and can carry 92 ground troops or 64 paratroopers, according to a description on the U.S. Navy website.
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