Witness: ‘Ground shook like a bomb was going off’
Video from a business near the crash showed the final moments of the hulking plane, a version normally outfitted to do weather reconnaissance.
The jet, with four turboprop engines on its overhead wing, banked left as it rapidly descended. The plane then plummeted behind trees. Seconds later, a fireball and thick black smoke erupted from the tree line.
‘We don’t know the cause’
The wreck left a debris field of 360,000 square feet — about the area of six football fields — Chatham County officials said. Georgia Highway 21 will remain closed indefinitely as investigators examine the crash site and debris field, they said.
The investigation is being carried out by the National Guard Bureau and the Air Force, Rivera said. A team from Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina is conducting the investigation, while a team from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware was sent to recover the airmen’s remains, Boone said.
The crash occurred moments after takeoff near Hilton Head Airport in Savannah, Rivera said.
There were no injuries on the ground.
“We don’t know the cause of the crash,” said Maj. Paul Dahlen, spokesman for the Puerto Rico National Guard.
The plane, from the 156th Airlift Wing in Puerto Rico, had been in Savannah for “a number of days” undergoing routine maintenance before heading to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Arizona, he said. AMARG, also known as “The Boneyard,” is an Arizona facility where the military keeps thousands of aircraft, as well as spacecraft.
Boone said he couldn’t specify what type of maintenance the aircraft underwent.