Marines killed in plane crash 1 year ago to be honored with memorial Saturday
By Therese Apel
A year ago Tuesday, people in the summer heat in Itta Bena at first couldn't be sure what they were looking at as an airplane hurtled through the sky toward a Mississippi Delta soybean field.
It would unfold as a tragic story of heroes — 16 fallen in the crash and dozens, maybe hundreds, of living responders. A Marine Corps KC-130T had crashed with 15 Marines and a Navy corpsman aboard, and there were no survivors.
Six Marines and the corpsman were from the Camp Lejeune-based 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command. Nine more were with the Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron (VMGR) 452, Marine Air Group-49, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, based in Newburgh, New York. They had been headed to Yuma, Arizona, for training.
On Saturday, they will all be honored at Mississippi Valley State University in a ceremony, after which a memorial will be unveiled. Speakers will include Gov. Phil Bryant, USMC Sgt. Major Ronald L. Green, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, and other Marine Corps leaders.
According to the YANKY 72 Memorial Committee, over 200 family members and friends of the fallen servicemen will also be there along with their squadron members and other dignitaries.
On the day the plane crashed, firefighters initially couldn't get close to it because of the extreme heat of the burning jet fuel and the explosions that went off as the flames raged. Ultimately, it would take 7,000 gallons of foam to contain the fire.
When the search began, a dozen bodies were spotted the first day. Only nine could be recovered, and six more on day two. The last man was found shortly before all of them were taken to Dover Air Force Base.
They were Cpl. Dan Baldassare, 20; Staff Sgt. Robert Cox, 28; the pilot, Captain Sean Elliott, 30; Major Caine Goyette; Gunnery Sgt. Mark Hopkins, 34; Sgt. Chad Jenson, 25; Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson, 45; Sgt. Julian Kevianne, 31; Staff Sgt. William Joseph Kundrat 33; Sgt. Talon Leach; Sgt. Owen Lennon, 26; Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ryan Lohrey, 30; Sgt, Joseph Murray, 26; Cpl. Collin Schaaff, 22; Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman, 26; and Staff Sgt. Joshua Snowden, 31.