9 Puerto Ricans killed in final flight of 60-year-old C-130
PORT WENTWORTH, Ga.
A crew of nine Puerto Ricans were flying an Air National Guard C-130 into retirement in Arizona when it crashed onto a highway in Georgia on Wednesday, and authorities said there are no survivors.
The plane crashed onto State Highway 21 moments after taking off from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, narrowly missing people on the ground and sending a big fireball into the sky.
“It miraculously did not hit any cars, any homes,” Effingham County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Gena Bilbo said. “This is a very busy roadway.”
Eight hours after the crash, she added: “To our knowledge there are no survivors.”
The huge plane’s fuselage appeared to have struck the median, and pieces of its wings, which spanned 132 feet, were scattered across lanes in both directions. The debris field stretched 600 feet in diameter, Bilbo said. The only part still intact was the tail section, said Chris Hanks, a spokesman for the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association.
The plane was more than 60 years old, said Isabelo Rivera, Adjutant General of Puerto Rico’s National Guard. Belonging to the 156th Air Wing, it was used to rescue U.S. citizens stranded in the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma and ferry supplies to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria last year.
“The planes that we have in Puerto Rico – it’s not news today that they are the oldest planes on inventory” of all National Guard planes nationwide, Rivera said. Puerto Rico’s National Guard has five other similar planes, two of which need maintenance and aren’t being used, he said.
It’s too early to say what might have caused the accident, he said.