Both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were recovered from the wreckage of an Air Force transport plane that crashed in southern Idaho’s high-desert foothills during the weekend, killing six Colorado reservists, the Air Force said Sunday.
Killed in the crash of a C-130 Hercules transport plane on Saturday were six members of the 302nd Airlift Wing from Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs.
The crew had dropped off personnel and equipment for firefighting training at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise and was returning to Colorado when an engine apparently caught fire, Air Force officials said.
A witness said he could hear the plane was in trouble before it came into sight.
“We could hear it in the clouds, which were about 400 feet above the ground. We knew it was in trouble from its sound. We just hoped it wasn’t going to come down on top of us,” said Mike Thompson of Bliss, who was out collecting antlers about a mile from the crash site.
“It came in very rapidly, straight into the ground with its engines on,” Thompson said. “It went down behind a bluff and we saw a great big fireball. When we got there, there wasn’t much left.”
“There were no survivors,” said Gooding County Sheriff Jim Jax.
Jax said chunks of wing and engine were scattered among the sagebrush and small pieces of debris were still smoking Saturday night.
The sheriff’s department and the Air Force sealed off the crash scene and the Air Force began its investigation.
At 3:16 p.m., air traffic controllers at Idaho’s Mountain Home Air Force Base received a distress call from the aircraft. About five minutes later, the crew requested a new route into the base, but the plane disappeared from radar about five minutes later. It crashed about 30 miles east of the base, 12 miles north of Bliss and about 80 miles southeast of Boise.
“Debris was scattered for 2 to 3 miles,” said Brig. Gen. Walter T. Hatcher III, commander of the 302nd Airlift Wing. He released the names of the victims at a press conference at the base on Sunday.
Killed in the crash were Lt. Col. Robert R. Buckhout, 49, director of safety and the pilot in command; 2nd Lt. Lance Dougherty, 25, co-pilot; Capt. Geoffrey Boyd, 35, tactics navigator; Chief Master Sgt. Jimmie D. Vail, 53, chief flight engineer, Master Sgt. Jay Kemp, 34, C-130 loadmaster instructor; and Staff Sgt. Michael L. Scheidemann, 24, loadmaster.
All of those killed lived in Colorado Springs except for Dougherty, who lived in Steamboat Springs, Colo., authorities said.
“We’re in a state of shock over the events of the last 24 hours,” said Hatcher. He said investigators were hopeful the plane’s flight recorder would provide them with crucial information about the crash.
Wing spokesman Maj. Dave Glasebrook said both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were recovered from the wreckage.
Eight C-130s were to make 200 practice drops of 3,000 gallon tanks of fire retardant to selected sites in the Boise National Forest this week. But Hatcher postponed his unit’s participation in the exercise out of respect for the victims and their families, so spokesman Mike Apicello at the National Interagency Fire Center said only six C-130s would participate.
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