May 9, 2018

‘It just fell out of the sky’: Frantic calls followed crash

Russ Bynum
Associated Press

Moments after a military cargo plane crashed into a Georgia highway, rattled motorists began dialing 911 to report the large aircraft plunged nose-first into the blacktop before erupting into flames and thick smoke.

“It just fell out of the sky and it’s on fire right now,” said one woman who called emergency operators as soon as the plane went down at about 11:27 a.m., May 2.

Police in Savannah, Ga., released 911 recordings from the crash May 7, five days after the C-130 Hercules cargo plane plummeted down onto Georgia Highway 21. It crashed shortly after taking off from the Savannah airport. Nine airmen from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard perished, but no one else was injured on the ground.

One 911 caller reported something seemed to be wrong with one of the plane’s four engines.

“I saw it take off from the airport and I noticed that one of the propellers wasn’t turning,” the woman told a 911 operator. “And he banked like he was going toward (Interstate) 95, and then all of a sudden he lost altitude and just took a nose dive into the ground.”

The military is investigating. So far, investigators have released no preliminary findings to suggest what caused the crash.

An Air Force spokesman, Maj. Andrew Reed, declined to comment May 7 on any details from the 911 calls, citing the active investigation.

Other witnesses gave similar eyewitness accounts.

“It just literally nose-dived into the road,” said one 911 caller.

“He did a barrel roll and went straight into the ground,” said another.

A woman who described black smoke bellowing from the crash tried to get a closer look so she could give emergency dispatchers a better idea of exactly where the plane hit.

“I’m coming up on it,” the woman says. “It’s right off the railroad track. Oh my God, it’s on Highway 21 … It’s across both lanes of road.”

“Is it on fire or anything like that?” the operator asks.

“Yes, baby, it’s black smoke,” the caller replies. “The plane like incinerated whenever it hit the concrete.”

Only the tail section of the plane remained intact following the crash. Authorities said the impact scattered debris over an area roughly 600 feet in diameter.

“I’ve got flames and smoke everywhere and stuff coming out of the sky,” one man told a 911 operator.

The aging plane had long been a part of Puerto Rico’s Air National Guard fleet and had rescued and resupplied U.S. citizens after last year’s hurricanes. It crashed during what was supposed to be its final flight.

The plane was being flown into retirement in Arizona when it took off from Savannah/ Hilton Head International Airport last week. Maj. Paul Dahlen of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard said the aircraft had been manufactured in 1970s, making it roughly 40 years old.

All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.



Headlines – February 15, 2019

News Former Air Force tech sergeant who defected to Iran charged with spying – A former Air Force counterintelligence specialist, a technical sergeant, who defected to Iran about five years after leaving the Air Force, has been charged with revealing classified information as well as research about her former colleagues to representatives of the Tehran...

News Briefs – February 15, 2019

Pentagon official assures Iraqis of limited U.S. military role The top Pentagon official assured Iraqi leaders Feb. 12 that the U.S. will stick to its limited military role in Iraq, a message aimed at recent talk by some Iraqi politicians of forcing a U.S. troop withdrawal. Pat Shanahan, the acting secretary of defense, said that...
Courtesy photograph

High Desert Hangar Stories: Tony LeVier and the wall

Courtesy photograph Tony LeVier and ground crew with the XF-90. With all due respect to the rock group Pink Floyd, back in 1950 there were very few “bricks in the wall” known as the sound barrier. Today, a multitude of pilo...