Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information, including the number of troops on board.
A WC-130 belonging to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard crashed Wednesday in Georgia with nine crew on board, a Guard spokesman confirmed.
The plane crashed near Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport shortly after takeoff. Television images showed billowing smoke and the tail intact from the wreckage.
“While performing a training mission, a United States C-130 ‘Hercules’ cargo plane from Puerto Rico Air National Guard crashed at about 11:30 a.m. today,“ the Air Force said in a statement. “The names will be released upon notification of next-of-kin.”
Maj. Paul Dahlen, a spokesman for the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, said the WC-130 had five crew members and four additional military personnel, including maintainers, on board when it went down.
All nine were members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, Dahlen said.
The plane had previously been used for weather reconnaissance missions, but was more than 50 years old and was on its final flight to “The Boneyard,” the 309th Aerospace Maintenance Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for long-term storage, Dahlen said.
The aircraft had undergone routine maintenance just before the flight, Dahlen said.
The Georgia Guard’s 165th Airlift Wing responded to the scene of the crash, as did multiple local first responders.
In a media briefing after the incident, Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons, of the 165th Airlift Wing, said he could not confirm how many were killed, but images of the crash, including a video taken from local retail showing the aircraft in a deep final dive suggested that it was not survivable.
“At this time, we’re not releasing any information other than to say that there were airmen on the plane that were deceased,” Parsons said. “But we’re not giving out any numbers at this time. Once we have a full count of who was on the airplane, the number, then we’ll come forward.”
A mortuary affairs team was en route from Charleston Air Force Base, Parsons said.
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."