7 service members from Camp Lejeune killed in deadly military plane crash

In this photo provided by Jimmy Taylor, smoke and flames rise into the air after a military transport airplane crashed in a field near Itta Bena, Miss., on the western edge of Leflore County, Monday, July 10, 2017, killing several. (Jimmy Taylor via AP)

ITTA BENA, Miss. (AP) — Seven of the U.S. troops killed in the Mississippi plane crash were special operations forces based at Camp Lejeune. Six were Marines and one was a sailor.

The Marine Corps refueling and cargo plane went down in a soybean field on Monday evening and killed 16 military members in all.

The crew and passengers was made up of 15 Marines and one Navy Corpsman.

The Marines said Tuesday the air tanker was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, and headed to California.

One of the plane’s stops was at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

USMC Captain John Roberts said the aircraft took off from Cherry Point after receiving fuel there. There were no Marines on board the aircraft from Cherry Point. The plane was scheduled to drop them and their equipment off for training at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, and fly on to a naval airfield at El Centro, California.

The seven commandos were from the Camp Lejeune-based 2nd Marine Raider Battalion

The identities of the service members whose lives were lost are still being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

One family in Vermont has come forward revealing their son, Gunnery Sargent Brendan Johnson, has died.

Johnson’s father spoke to our CBS affiliate WCAX.

“Well I think he was a very gentle person,” said Kevin Johnson. “He loved the outdoors. He was looking forward to retirement next year and he said it was time to move on and let some of the younger kids take over. He had a great sense of humor and was very kind to people, his mother and other family members. He loved it. He loved to fly.”

Leflore County Emergency Management Agency director Frank Randle told reporters at a briefing late Monday that 16 bodies had been recovered after the KC-130T spiraled into the ground about 85 miles (135 kilometers) north of Jackson in the Mississippi Delta. A witness said some bodies were found more than a mile from the crash site.

Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns said in a statement that the refueling tanker, a KC-130T “experienced a mishap” Monday evening but provided no details on what caused the crash.

“The loss of any service member is tragic,” said Dr. Don Herring, chairman of the Onslow Civic Affairs Committee.  “This sudden news that we have learned today has really ripped the fabric of our community.”

The city of Jacksonville is already taking action to honor those whose lives were lost. The Freedom Fountain’s center spire will be the only one running starting Tuesday night and continuing for the next seven days.

The Marine Corps said its focus remains on providing the necessary resources and support to the family and friends of these service members as they go through this extremely difficult time.

“On behalf of the Marine Corps Reserve, I extend my deepest sympathies to the loved ones of those who perished in last night’s tragedy,” said Lt. Gen. Rex C. McMillian, commander of Marine Forces Reserve. “The Marines and Sailor involved in this incident were among our finest. They dedicated their lives to our core values of honor, courage and commitment. They will never be forgotten.”

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, said in a statement Tuesday morning that he and his wife were extending their deepest condolences to the families of the Marines killed, as well as to the Cherry Point station.

In a Tuesday morning tweet, President Donald Trump offered condolences.

“Marine Plane crash in Mississippi is heartbreaking. Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all!” Trump wrote.