Wreckage from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 tanker aircraft is strewn across a field near the village of Chaldovar, about 100 miles west of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on May 3. (Vladimir Voronin/AP)
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SPOKANE, WASH. — The three airman killed in the crash of a military tanker refueling plane in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan were from Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington state, the Department of Defense said Sunday.
The airmen assigned to the 93rd Air Refueling died May 3, near Chon-Aryk, Kyrgyzstan, in the crash of a KC-135 aircraft.
The Defense Department has identified the three airmen as Capt. Mark T. Voss, 27, of Colorado Springs, Colo., Capt. Victoria A. Pinckney, 27, of Palmdale, Calif., and Tech Sgt. Herman Mackey III, 30, of Bakersfield, Calif.
Search teams on Saturday found the bodies of two of the American crew members near where their military refueling plane crashed in the rugged mountains of Kyrgyzstan, while the third crew member was still missing, the emergencies minister of the Central Asian nation said.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
The KC-135 plane crashed Friday afternoon about 100 miles west of the air base that the U.S. operates in Kyrgyzstan to support military operations in Afghanistan.
Fairchild is home of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, and is one of several U.S. bases where KC-135s are located. The plane is used for midair refueling of other planes.
The plane was on a refueling mission for Afghanistan war operations at the time of the crash, a U.S. defense official in Washington said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the details of an ongoing investigation.
The U.S. base, which is adjacent to Manas International Airport outside Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, was established in late 2001 to support the international military campaign in Afghanistan. It functions as an interim point for troops going into or out of Afghanistan and as a home for the tanker planes that refuel warplanes in flight.