United States Air Force Air Crew
Albania Crash: 31 March 2005
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
The names of the nine airmen who died Thursday in a plane crash in Albania:
Captain Todd R. Bracy, 34, of Murphysboro,
Captain James S. Cronin, 32, of Oak Grove Village, Illinois
Captain Gil C. Williamson, 31, of Dike, Texas
Captain Surender D. Kothakota, 30, of Fayetteville,
First Lieutenant Ray C. Owens Jr., 32, of Birmingham,
Chief Master Sergeant Lawrence B. Gray, 40, of Chester, South Carolina
Technical Sergeant James R. Henry, 30, of Valparaiso, Florida
Technical Sergeant Glenn P. Lastes, 39, of
Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Pentico, 22, of Hanksville,
OWENS, RAY C JR
1ST LT US AIR FORCE
DATE OF BIRTH: 01/22/1973
DATE OF DEATH: 03/31/2005
BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 8238
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
The Air Force confirmed the deaths Sunday and released the names Monday of the nine airmen stationed at RAF Mildenhall. There were no survivors.
All but Lastes were members of the 7th Special Operations Squadron, part of the 352nd Special Operations Group. Lastes was a member of Detachment 2, 25th Intelligence Operations Squadron, another tenant unit at RAF Mildenhall.
In an interview with Stars and Stripes on Monday afternoon, Colonel Dennis Jones, commander of the 352nd, said the recovery of the bodies was not yet complete at the crash site on a mountain 35 miles southeast of Tirana, the capital city of Albania.
An Air Force investigation of the crash began immediately, he said, and would take “at least a couple months.”
The investigation team is supported by Aviano Air Base, Italy, the closest base to the crash site, he said.
Jones said he was called late Thursday by the commander of the 7th SOS and told “we had an aircraft overdue. At that point, we did not know what had happened.”
Four hours passed before the crew of another MC-130H reported seeing possible wreckage on the mountain.
“That [was] a very rough four hours,” Jones said. “The next couple days were a blur.”
Notifying the next of kin, a duty handled by the unit commanders, was difficult, Jones said, because the families of five crash victims live in the States. The nearest Air Force base to each family handled the notification.
The base, home to 5,000 active-duty airmen, plans a memorial service at 2 p.m. Wednesday as everyone is feeling the impact even if they didn’t know the victims.
“There’s definitely a sense of loss. We’re on the same base. We were co-workers,” said Staff Sgt. Karl Blickenstaff of the 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “We’re all doing the same thing.”
Airman 1st Class David Weidner of the 100th Security Forces Squadron said his thoughts immediately went to squadron mates who are deployed to Albania.
“I was concerned that some of our people were hurt,” he said, admitting a sense of only “slight relief” that his fellow cops were not involved.
Jones said the group deals with the grief much in the same way a family does, but he and his airmen have to continue their daily routines.
“We try,” he said, “but it is obviously difficult
to maintain focus.”
TIRANA, Albania April 1, 2005
Search teams recovered the bodies Friday of nine Americans killed when a U.S. military aircraft crashed in mountainous southern Albania during a joint exercise, Albanian military authorities said.
The C-130 airplane crashed Thursday night near the remote village of Rovie, in the Drizez Mountains, 60 miles southeast of the Balkan country's capital, Tirana. No one on board survived, said Albanian army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Pellumb Qazimi.
Four bodies were found earlier Friday, and five more were found inside the plane, Albanian officials said. The military transport was assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Group based in Mildenhall in England.
The U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, said the cause of the crash was being investigated but did not comment on the fate of the crew, saying the "status of the individuals on board is yet to be determined."
Albania, seeking eventual membership in NATO, has close ties to the U.S. military. It backed the American-led campaign in Iraq, where it has deployed a small unit of 71 troops. Albania also has peacekeeping contingents in Afghanistan and in nearby Bosnia.
The U.S. ambassador to Albania, Marcie B. Ries, thanked Qazimi for the search effort.
"This is an example of the excellent cooperation existing between the United States and Albania," Ries said. "We are very grateful for the tremendous support from the Albanian military."