July 3, 2012
State flags will fly at half-staff Tuesday across North Carolina, in tribute to the Charlotte-based Air National Guard members who were killed in the crash of their C-130 cargo plane Sunday night in a firefighting mission in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
At least two crew members were killed, according to family members, but several published and broadcast reports Tuesday said the death toll was four.
The plane carried a crew of six.
The Air Force is expected to provide more details on the crash and the casualty toll during a news conference Tuesday.
Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal of Mooresville and Master Sgt. Robert Cannon of Charlotte were among those who died, according to family members.
Josh Marlowe of Shelby was seriously injured in the crash and in a South Dakota hospital, his mother-in-law told the Observer.
The C-130 plane, from the N.C. Air National Guard’s 145th Air Wing, was pressed into service due to wildfires that have burned thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of homes in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
Air Force officials said the cause of the crash remains under investigation.
But a blogger at the website Wildfire Today cited information from the U.S. Forest Service indicating a plane ahead of the C-130 experienced a “severe downdraft” while approaching the area where the planes had been assigned to drop fire retardant.
The Air Force grounded seven other firefighting C-130s in the wake of the crash Monday, removing critical equipment from the skies during one of the busiest and most destructive wildfire seasons ever in the West.
The plane that went down, a C-130H3, was manufactured in 1993, according to First Lt. Michael Wilber, a spokesman for the N.C. National Guard.
The maintenance crew found no mechanical deficiencies on the plane the last time it was on the ground, Wilber said. It was one of three planes sent from Charlotte.
All six on the flight were experienced crewmen who had drilled in fire missions, according to Lt. Col. Robert Carter of the N.C. Air National Guard.
The Charlotte-based Air National Guard crews were helping the Colorado, Wyoming and California National Guard units battle the Waldo Canyon and Flagstaff fires in Colorado; the Arapaho fire in Wyoming; and the White Draw blaze in South Dakota.
The C-130 planes were carrying the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), a self-contained firefighting system owned by the Forest Service. MAFFS can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in a matter of seconds.
Those planes, which made multiple flights in recent days, typically aren’t deployed unless the rest of the Forest Service’s firefighting fleet is occupied.
President Barack Obama said the firefighting crews “put their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans.”
“They are heroes who deserve the appreciation of a grateful nation,” Obama said. “The crew of this flight — along with their families and loved ones — are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Gov. Bev Perdue said in a statement that the “tragic loss underscores the risks and sacrifices our servicemen and women make on a daily basis. Whether home or aboard, they leave their families to keep us safe and protect our freedom.”
Perdue encouraged North Carolina residents to join state officials in flying flags at half-staff.
U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who represents Mikeal’s district in Congress, said, “Mikeal and his crew fought through dangerous conditions, trying to save the homes and lives of thousands of Americans. His courage and heroism will not be forgotten.”
About 1,400 men and women are based with the Charlotte National Guard unit. Most of them are from the Carolinas. The 145th Air Wing has ten C-130 aircraft.
The two firefighting planes from the Charlotte unit, along with a third craft used for equipment and supplies, flew to the Colorado base Saturday.
A spokesman for the 145th Airlift Wing said its aircraft were scheduled to move Monday to a base in Wyoming, so they could be closer to the fire.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
65 6 9 26
his soul number = 26 = Popular. Newsworthy.
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