A WC-130 Hercules cargo plane from the 156th Airlift Wing of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard crashed near Savannah, Georgia, leaving at least five of as many as nine onboard dead, per officials who spoke with WBTV and an update from the Associated Press. The plane was being used on a training mission. [Update: All nine passengers have now been confirmed as dead.]
The crash happened near the intersection of GA-21 and Gulfstream Road in Port Wentworth, Georgia, at around 11:30 a.m. ET. No cause has been given for the crash yet, however, there is a media briefing at 2:00 p.m. ET on the incident.
A witness who spoke with WTOC said that the plane rolled upside down before turning straight into the ground and crashing.
A statement by the 165th Airlift Wing which operates out of the Air National Guard base in Savannah stated that the names involved will be released after the next-of-kin have been notified.
Military Times reports that the C-130 in use was specifically a WC-130, which is a cargo plane frequently used on weather reconnaissance missions.
The C-130 Hercules crashed close enough to the Savannah-Hilton Head airport to affect flights in and out of the airport, so those flying into the area have been advised to check with their airline as to the situation, reports WBTV. The airport has a page here where you can check to see if your flight is affected.
Additionally, phone, power and network services were shut down at the nearby Port Wentworth Elementary and Rice Creek School due to the crash, although there are no other effects on the school. Gulfstream Road was entirely shut down and traffic was affected on nearby roads as a result.
We will update this story as more information is released.
UPDATE [1:57 p.m.]: An official from the Georgia Air National Guard confirmed to the AP that at least five people died in this crash. The headline was updated to reflect this.
UPDATE [2:05 p.m.]: Power in the area was knocked out for more than just the schools as well, Effingham County Sheriffs Department representative Gena Bilbo confirmed in a media briefing. Train tracks were also affected by the crash, shutting down train service in the area.
The roads involved will be closed indefinitely as they clean up the jet fuel and other materials from the crash. No cars were hit in the crash.
Military representatives will give a media briefing at 3:00 p.m. ET.
UPDATE [3:11 p.m.]: An Air Force spokesman told WSVN that they did not have the exact details as to how many people were onboard, so we’ve amended the numbers above. WSVN writes that they were Puerto Ricans, however:
The Air Force said the plane belonged to the 156th Air Wing out of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico National Guard Spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen told The Associated Press that all those aboard were Puerto Ricans who had recently left the U.S. territory for a mission on the U.S. mainland. He said initial information indicated there were five to nine people aboard the plane, which was heading to Arizona. He did not have details on the mission.
Meanwhile, WBTV has amended their headline to “no confirmed survivors.”
UPDATE [10:54 p.m.]: Nine people have now been confirmed as dead, per the Washington Post. The plane was over 60 years old and one of the oldest left in service, and it was en route to be decommissioned when it crashed, the Washington Post writes:
The plane, a WC-130 weather reconnaissance and cargo plane from Puerto Rico’s 156th Airlift Wing, has been in Savannah for maintenance and was bound for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona to be decommissioned. Maj. Paul Dahlen of the Puerto Rico National Guard told CNN that five crew members and four passengers were aboard.
Footage of the plane nosing down towards the ground and ultimately crashing was captured by a nearby security camera:
The military is still investigating the cause of this crash.
[H/T Dusty Ventures!]