PORT WENTWORTH, GA (WTOC) - State and government agencies are in town assisting with the deadly military plane crash that claimed the lives of nine Puerto Rico National Guard members on Wednesday.
The crash site on GA-21 in Port Wentworth remains a very active scene Thursday.
There have been conflicting reports on the number of people the plane was actually carrying, but military officials have now confirmed nine people, five crew members and four additional military members were on board at the time. There are no known survivors.
The nine people who perished in the crash were all Puerto Rico Air National Guard airmen and women. Military officials are in the process of notifying the families.
The pilot has been identified as Maj. Jose Rafael Roman, from the coastal town of Manati along Puerto Rico's north coast. The mayor of that town, Jose Sanchez, told The Associated Press that Roman had two sons and his wife is five months pregnant with a girl.
The names of the other eight fallen Airmen are:
- Maj. Carlos Pérez Serra – Navigator – 23 years of service - from Canóvanas, PR. He is survived by his wife, two sons, and daughter.
- 1st Lt. David Albandoz – Co-Pilot – 16 years of service - from PR, recently residing in Madison, Alabama. He is survived by his wife and daughter.
- Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini – Mechanic – 21 years of service - from Canóvanas, PR. He is survived by two daughters and son.
- Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred – 16 years of service - from Carolina, PR. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
- Master Sgt. Mario Braña – Flight Engineer – 17 years of service - from Bayamón, PR. He is survived by his mother and daughter.
- Master Sgt. Víctor Colón – 22 years of service - from Santa Isabel, PR. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
- Master Sgt. Eric Circuns – Loadmaster – 31 years of service - from Rio Grande, PR. He is survived by his wife, two step-daughters, and son.
- Senior Airman Roberto Espada– three years of service - from Salinas, PR. He is survived by his grandmother.
According to a news release from the 165th Airlift Wing in Savannah, the C-130 Hercules cargo plane from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard crashed shortly after takeoff around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday while performing a training mission. The Federal Aviation Administration says the plane was at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport for routine maintenance before heading to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ.
A military official says the C-130 aircraft was manufactured in the late 70s, so it was not 60 years old as previously thought.
Hundreds of police and firefighters from nearby cities and counties answered the call for help, as well as members of the FBI, GBI, Georgia Public Safety, Georgia DNR, Georgia DOT, GEMA and CEMA. The support proved vital in the minutes and even hours after the crash.
Military police are handling the entirety of the investigation while local law enforcement tackles the traffic challenges. The crash caused a 600x600 foot field of debris, which is why that portion of the highway is shut down for weeks.
The train tracks and access to the ports were also affected by the crash, but are now back to normal.
CSX railroad is reopened after yesterday’s C-130 crash and The Georgia Ports Authority says it’s back to business as usual pic.twitter.com/9XAZdzNw6o
— Amanda LaBrot (@AmandaLaBrot) May 3, 2018
Law enforcement says the military must first investigate the crash site. Once that's complete, crews will need to clean up the aircraft and debris field. Hazardous material will then need to be examined before the Department of Transportation can complete the final step. Once the plane is removed, construction crews may have to repair the road.
According to Gena Bilbo, Public Information Officer for the Effingham County Sheriff's Office, Highway 21 will remain closed indefinitely all the way to the Sonny Dixon Interchange, which is a major work commute thoroughfare for Effingham County and West Chatham County residents. Law enforcement is asking citizens to consider carpooling and leaving earlier than normal for the morning commute. Click here for detour routes.
The U.S. Air Force will conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the crash. Officials will hold frequent news conferences to provide the latest updates. Count on WTOC to continue to bring you the latest developments throughout the investigation.
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