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US Marines killed after military plane crashes in Mississippi

A military plane has crashed in Mississippi, killing 16 people and spreading debris for miles. There were no survivors and officials did not immediately release information on what caused the crash.

A US military plane crashed in a soybean field in rural Mississippi late Monday.

Leflore County Emergency Management Agency Director Frank Randle told reporters at a late briefing that searchers had recovered 16 bodies after the KC-130 spiraled into the ground about 85 miles (135 kilometers) north of the state capital, Jackson. It has been confirmed that fifteen Marines and a Navy corpsman were on board.

Local farmer, Andy Jones, witnessed the crash. He heard a loud booming sound, and then saw the plane descend out of the sky.

"You looked up and saw the plane twirling around, " he said. "It was spinning down."

Fire Chief Marcus Banks told the Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper that debris from the refueling aircraft had scattered in a radius of about 5 miles (8 km). Jones said firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze at the main crash site but withdrew after an explosion forced them back. The fire produced towering plumes of black smoke visible across the flat region and continued to burn more than four hours after the crash.

'Experienced a mishap'

Citing the Federal Aviation Administration, WSOC-TV in Charlotte reported that the flight had originated from Cherry Point, in the state of North Carolina, home to a Marine Corps air base. In a statement, Captain Sarah Burns said the KC-130 refueling tanker had "experienced a mishap" Monday evening, but provided no details. The deaths of all on board were confirmed by the Marines in a post to Twitter.

FBI spokesman Brett Carr told The New York Times that the agency sent officials but did not suspect foul play. "We're just trying to offer any type of assistance," Carr, a spokesman for the bureau's Jackson office, told the newspaper. "It could be anything from manpower to evidence response."

In a statement posted to the social media site Facebook, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant expressed sadness, but also provided no details. "Please join Deborah and me in praying for those hurting after this tragedy," Bryant wrote. "Our men and women in uniform risk themselves every day to secure our freedom."

U.S Sen. Thom Tillis, the representative for North Carolina, also issued a statement extending his deepest condolences to the families of the Marines that were killed. This was followed by a tweet from US President Donald Trump, sending condolences from himself and Melania.

Mississippi has experienced several tragedies in recent months. A rampage in May left eight people dead. More people were killed in March, when a train crashed into a bus.   

mkg, cl/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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