Military aircraft that crashed near Georgia Airport, killing 9, was on its final flight

The military is investigating why an aging cargo plane making its final military flight nosedived into a Georgia highway on Wednesday, killing all nine people on board.

                            Military aircraft that crashed near Georgia Airport, killing 9, was on its final flight
(Source: Getty Images)

An aging military cargo plane crashed into a Georgia highway on Wednesday, killing all nine people onboard. The military is currently investigating the cause.

On the fateful day, the Puerto Rico Air National Guard WC-130 was on its final flight to Tucson, Arizona, from Savannah, Georgia, where it was scheduled to be decommissioned. According to an official familiar with the aircraft, the plane was at least 60 years old, reported CNN.

“There has been a plane crash at the intersection of Hwy 21 at Crossgate Rd. Roads will be shut down. Please avoid the area,” Chatham EMA tweeted shortly after the incident. 

"Nine crew members died in the accident, but until their families and relatives are notified, we cannot give their names," said Brigadier General Isabelo Rivera, the assistant general of Puerto Rico.

Officials said that all aboard the doomed flight were from Puerto Rico. 

A section of the plane was engulfed by fire and thick black smoke could be seen billowing to the sky. Photos showed that only the tail section of the craft was intact.

During a conversation with Savannah Morning News, Mark Jones said he was near the highway when he noticed a plane flying dangerously low, reported Fox News.

“I could see [the plane] above the tree line and it looked kind of low like it was curving in toward street, but I see them all the time, so I didn’t think anything of it,” Jones said. “I looked down and then looked back up and it didn’t look like it nosedived, but it almost looked like it stalled and just went almost flat right there in the middle of the highway.”

He claims that he saw the explosion and for a moment thought that it had landed on cars crossing the road.

“There were definitely cars going both ways," he said "...Most people stopped and got out of their cars.”

The National Guard Bureau and the Air Force are conducting the investigation in a joint effort. However, according to a statement from the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, the National Transportation Safety Board will not be involved in the operation.

The plane plunged into the tarmac just before 11:30 am, moments after takeoff near Hilton Head Airport in Savannah, Georgia, according to Rivera.

Fortunately, there were no injuries on the ground.

"We don't know the cause of the crash," said Maj. Paul Dahlen.

The aircraft was a part of the 156th Airlift Wing in Puerto Rico and was used to rescue U.S. citizens stranded in the British Virgin Islands following Hurricane Irma and ferry supplies to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria last year. It was undergoing routine maintenance in Savannah for "a number of days" before leaving for the Aerospace Regeneration and Maintenance Group in Arizona, Dahlen said. AMARG is also known as "The Boneyard" and it is a facility where the military keeps thousands of aircraft as well as space shuttles.

Rivera further informed that all crew members aboard the plane had helped with hurricane recovery efforts.

President Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the crash and asked for "thoughts and prayers for the victims, their families and the great men and women of the National Guard."

Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico, tweeted his condolences towards the families of those who lost their lives in the crash. He asserted that they will receive complete support from the Puerto Rico National Guard.

Due to the plane crash, several flights were being impacted. The Hilton Head International Airport urged travelers to check with airlines beforehand. 

The WC-130 is an Air Force plane which has a crew of five with room for several passengers and cargo. It is generally used as a weather reconnaissance aircraft used by both the Air Force and the Air National Guard.

According to Chatham County, State Highway 21 will remain closed until investigators complete their examination in the debris field and the crash site.