he U.S. Marine Corps has ordered the grounding of its 12 KC-130T tanker and cargo aircraft as a precaution following the July 10 crash in Mississippi that killed 15 Marines and one sailor.
The order will not affect KC-130Js in Marine Corps service or variants in use by the Air Force and Navy. The grounding will be in place until further notice, the Marine Corps announced on Thursday.
Witness reports indicate that the plane spiraled into the ground following loud banging sounds. Debris from the aircraft has been found over several miles near the crash zone.
Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, Commander of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, told reporters following the crash that something went wrong at cruising altitude.
The flight was carrying a team from the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion out of Camp Lejeune to a routine pre-deployment training mission at Marine Air Base Yuma, Ariz., and were carrying personal weapons and ammunition.
Bomb detection and disposal crews, including from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, have engaged in clearing the crash sites of possible unexploded ordinance, spokeswoman Josslyn Aberle told UPI.
“Our personnel are assisting with the crash site and providing whatever support is needed for any possible explosives,” Aberle said, but declined to comment on any types of ordinance or other hazardous material on board the aircraft due to the ongoing investigation.
Marine Corps spokeswoman Lieutenant Stephanie L. Leguizamon also declined to comment on whether the grounding was due to any results of the investigation of the crash or anything carried on board the aircraft playing a role in the explosion and crash.
The incident marks the deadliest aircraft accident since a transport helicopter crashed during a sandstorm in Iraq in 2005 killing 31.
The KC-130 is a variant of the C-130 Hercules designed for aerial refueling and cargo transport.