An Air Force jet exploded and crashed Monday in a wooded area while trying to land at the airport in this eastern Alabama town. All eight people on board were killed, including an assistant secretary of the Air Force.
The plane was trying to make an unplanned landing at the Alexander City airport when it crashed near a subdivision 4 miles from Alexander City, said Lt. Frances Sconi, a spokeswoman for Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
The passengers included Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Clark Fiester and his assistant, Col. Jack Clark, said an Air Force spokeswoman, Maj. Alvina Mitchell.
The rest of the passengers were Air Force personnel and one Army member who was flying on a “space available” basis, Mitchell said. Their names were not released pending notification of their families.
A witness said he could see the pilot was struggling with the plane.
Jimmy Keel said he watched the plane fly just above the tree line as he sat on the porch of his bait and tackle shop.
“It was coming a straight line for my store. I could see the pilot fighting the plane,” Keel said. “He was in trouble. He fought it up, it went left, then right, then it exploded.”
Another witness said she too heard the plane explode before it crashed.
The plane had been en route to Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, said Lt. Col. Johnny Whitaker, a spokesman for Randolph.
He said the jet, which had taken off from Andrews, was based in Randolph and was carrying a crew of two and six passengers.
Fire Chief Ronnie Betts said the plane broke into pieces.
“Not much is intact,” he said.
Defense Department spokesman Kenneth Bacon in Washington said the plane was a C-21, a military version of the Learjet executive aircraft.