Officials have released the names of the 15 Marines and one Navy hospital corpsman who were killed in Monday’s crash of a KC-130T in Mississippi.
Among the dead were three Marines from Southern California: Capt. Sean E. Elliott of Orange, Staff Sgt. Robert H. Cox of Ventura and Sgt. Chad E. Jenson of Los Angeles, the U.S. Marine Corps announced.
Elliot was a KC-130 aircraft commander. He joined the Marines in May 2009 and attained the rank of captain in October 2013.
His parents say he was enamored with aircraft and the military.
His father, John Elliott, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Sean got a model C-130 plane as a Christmas gift when he was four.
“He kept taking it with him to bed,” his father told the newspaper. “He slept with it like you would a teddy bear. A big plane, in the bed. A silly plastic thing, with the toy soldiers inside. It went to bed with him every night for quite a long time.”
He leaves behind his wife Catherine, and his family in San Juan Capistrano.
His awards include a Navy and Marine Corps achievement medal, two sea service deployment ribbons, Korean defense service medal, two global war on terrorism expeditionary medals, a global war on terrorism service medal, national defense service medal and two letters of appreciation.
Cox would have celebrated his tenth anniversary with the Marine Corps this month, according to the military. The staff sergeant was most recently stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina as a critical skills operator and had been deployed several times to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
His awards include two Navy and Marine Corps achievement medals, a combat action ribbon, a Marine Corps good conduct medal, an inherent resolve campaign medal; three sea service deployment ribbons, two Afghanistan campaign medals, two Armed Forces reserve medals, an Iraq campaign medal; a global war on terrorism service medal, national defense service medal, Navy meritorious unit commendation, a Navy unit commendation medal, a NATO medal-ISAF Afghanistan and letter of appreciation.
Jenson enlisted in Sept. 2010 and attained the rank of sergeant in Oct. 2014. He was also stationed at Camp Lejeune as a critical skills operator.
His awards include a Marine Corps good conduct medal, a global war on terrorism service medal, national defense service medal, Navy meritorious unit commendation, two certificates of commendation, three letters of appreciation and two meritorious masts.
The other 12 Marines killed in the crash were: Maj. Caine M. Goyette; Capt. Sean E. Elliott; Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Hopkins; Gunnery Sgt. Brendan C. Johnson; Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Snowden; Sgt. Julian M. Kevianne; Sgt. Owen J. Lennon; Cpl. Daniel I. Baldassare; Cpl. Collin J. Schaaff; Staff Sgt. Robert H. Cox; Staff Sgt. William J. Kundrat; Sgt. Chad E. Jenson; Sgt. Talon R. Leach; Sgt. Joseph J. Murray; Sgt. Dietrich A. Schmieman; and Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan M. Lohrey.
The KC-130T aircraft that crashed Monday was from a Marine Corps Forces Reserve refueling and transport squadron based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, officials said Tuesday.
The flight originated from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and the squadron was helping to transport personnel and equipment from there to Naval Air Field El Centro in California, the Marine Corps Forces Reserve said in a news release.
“Equipment on board included various small arms ammunition and personal weapons. An explosive ordnance disposal team is at the scene as a precaution in the interest of safety,” the release said.
The crash involved “large impact areas” and “indications are something went wrong at cruise altitude,” Marines Brig. Gen. Bradley James said Wednesday.
CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo said that given the two distinct impact points and that the debris is spread out over several miles, it leads her to believe the plane experienced a catastrophic event — perhaps an engine or propeller breaking off — that caused the plane to come apart midair.
“That means an in-flight breakup,” the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation said. “That’s really rare.”
Though there is no official conclusion about the cause of the crash and officials continue to review data, video of the aftermath indicates the crew made no attempt to land the plane, and the plane was upside down as it burned in the soybean field, the official said.