A USAF MC-130H Combat Talon cargo aircraft crashed into a mountainside Aug 7, 2002, about 15 miles south of San Juan, Puerto Rico. All 10 military personnel on board were killed, according to U.S. Southern Command.
The special operations aircraft went down in heavy fog and rain during a nighttime training flight from NAS Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico to Borinquen Air National Guard Base on the west coast of Puerto Rico.
On August 10, 2004, Air Force officials released the names of personnel killed. They were Majors Michael J. Akos, Aircraft Commander, and Gregory W. Fritz, Navigator; Captains Christel A. Chavez, Pilot, and Panuk P. Soomsawasdi, Special Tactics Liaison Officer; First Lieutenant Nathanial D. Buckley, Electronic Weapons Officer; Technical Sergeants Christopher A. Matero and Martin A. Tracy, both Combat Controllers, and Robert S. Johnson, Flight Engineer; and Staff Sergeants Robert J. McGuire Jr., Loadmaster, and Shane H. Kimmett, Direct Support Operator.
Akos, Buckley, Chavez, Fritz, Johnson, and McGuire were assigned to the 16th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Soomsawasdi was with SOUTHCOM and based at Roosevelt Roads. Matero and Tracy were Kentucky Air National Guardsmen. Kimmett was assigned to Air Intelligence Agency, based in San Antonio.
Officials said a board would investigate the accident.
Workers in Puerto Rico recover last two bodies among 10 killed in crash of U.S. Air Force plane,
CAGUAS, Puerto Rico — A search team cut into the wreckage of a U.S. Air Force plane Sunday and found the bodies of two servicemen, the last of 10 who died when their plane slammed into a mountainside.
The searchers found the bodies after opening a battered section of the cockpit using a specialized saw and other equipment, officials said.
”We have finished one of the most important missions, which is the recovery of bodies,” said Lieutenant Colonel Adolfo Menendez, commander of a National Guard unit at the crash site. ”Now begins the investigation.”
The MC-130H special operations plane crashed during a training mission Wednesday night. The bulky plane was flying in rain and fog when it struck Monte Perucho, broke in two and erupted in flames, witnesses said.
The crash left wreckage scattered over the mountainside near Caguas, 20 miles south of San Juan.
About 30 searchers and military investigators were working at the crash site as the two bodies were found Sunday, officials said. The area was closed to reporters.
Meanwhile, a 10-member team from the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, began supervising the investigation Sunday, officials said. An Air Force accident board also was being assembled to rule on the cause, which remained unclear.
Searchers on Friday found the cockpit voice recorder. The plane had no flight data recorder, officials said.
The plane belonged to the Air Force Special Operations Command and was flying from Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in northeastern Puerto Rico to the Borinquen Air Station on the Caribbean island's west coast.
The Air Force released three final names of victims on Saturday and Sunday after notifying their families.
Six of the 10 victims were from Air Force Special Operations at Hurlburt Field, Florida; one was from the Air Intelligence Agency and assigned to a unit in Florida; two were members of the Kentucky Air National Guard on temporary duty in Puerto Rico; and one was assigned to Puerto Rico for the Southern Command's Special Operations Command.
Six victims from the 16th Special Operations Wing were identified as pilot Major Michael J. Akos, Co-Pilot Captain Christel A. Chavez, Navigator Major Gregory W. Fritz, loadmaster Staff Sergeant Robert J. McGuire Jr., electronic weapons officer First Lieutenant Nathanial D. Buckley of Minneola, Kansas, and flight engineer Technical Sergeant Robert S. Johnson.
Also identified were Staff Sergeant Shane H. Kimmet, a Support Operator from the Air Intelligence Agency, Captain Panuk P. Soomsawasdi, a Special Tactics Liaison Officer with Special Operations Command, and two combat controllers from the Kentucky Air National Guard, Technical Sergeant Martin Tracy and Technical Sergeant Christopher A. Matero.
The accident was the second in two months involving the four-engine Combat Talon II, a special operations variant of the C-130 Hercules cargo plane. The other crashed in June in Afghanistan, killing three.
Dozens of searchers crisscrossed a mountainside Saturday in hopes of finding two remaining bodies of American servicemen killed when their plane crashed three days earlier. The day's efforts were unsuccessful and the workers descended at nightfall, saying they planned to saw open a piece of fuselage on Sunday in search of the last victims among the 10 aboard the U.S. Air Force plane.
“There isn't much chance of finding the last two bodies because they're probably very dismembered,” said Adolfo Menendez, commander of a National Guard unit at the crash site. Searchers have recovered the bodies of eight killed when the MC-130H special operations plane crashed in the U.S. territory during a training mission near Caguas, 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of San Juan.
The crash's force left wreckage scattered over the mountainside, which was muddy on Saturday amid fog and drizzle. Searchers on Friday found the cockpit voice recorder, which would take one to three days to analyze, Menendez said.
Workers also recovered a separate metal box on Saturday containing “classified equipment,” Menendez said. He did not elaborate, saying only that the box was “one of the search's objectives.”
The bulky plane was flying in rain and fog when it struck Monte Perucho, broke in two and erupted in flames, witnesses said. Social workers later met with children from the area, saying the children were terrified at the sound of regular military flights overhead. “They don't sleep well. They're very quiet, very worried,” social worker Carmen Rivera said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld expressed condolences to the families of those killed. Officials identified seven of the 10 people aboard the plane. One was a Kentucky national guardsman on temporary duty in Puerto Rico, five were from Air Force Special Operations in Florida, and one was from the Air Intelligence Agency, also based in Florida. Four victims from the 16th Special Operations Wing were identified as navigator Major Gregory W. Fritz, Aircraft Commander Major Michael J. Akos, Co-Pilot Captain Christel A. Chavez, and loadmaster Staff Sergeant Robert J. McGuire Jr.
Also identified were Staff Sergeant Shane H. Kimmet, Support Operator from the Air Intelligence Agency, Captain Panuk P. Soomsawasdi, a Special Tactics Liaison Officer with Special Operations Command, and Staff Sergeant Martin Tracy, a Special Tactics operator with the Kentucky Air National Guard.
Chavez, the 27-year-old co-pilot, was the daughter of National Hispanic Cultural Center director Tom Chavez.
The accident was the second in two months involving the four-engine Combat Talon II, a special operations variant of the C-130 Hercules cargo plane that costs $78 million. The other crashed in June in Afghanistan, killing three. The plane in Wednesday's crash belonged to the Air Force Special Operations Command and was flying from Roosevelt Roads Naval Station to the Borinquen Air Station on the island's west coast.
FRITZ, GREGORY W
- MAJ US AIR FORCE
- VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 07/15/1990 – 08/07/2002
- DATE OF BIRTH: 07/02/1968
- DATE OF DEATH: 08/07/2002
- DATE OF INTERMENT: 09/04/2002
- BURIED AT: SECTION 66 SITE 6494
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard