Officials first noticed something was wrong when air traffic control lost contact with the Yankee 72 around 4:00 p.m. local time Monday, 4th Marine Air Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Bradley James told reporters.
The aircraft was supposed to carry six Marines and a sailor to Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command from Cherry Point, North Carolina, to Yuma, Arizona, for training before deployment. Also aboard were nine Marine air crew from the Marine Aerial Refueling Squadron (VMGR)-452 in Newburgh, New York.
James said large plumes of smoke could be seen around Itta Bena, Mississippi, not long after air control lost contact with the aircraft. "Indications are, something went wrong at cruise altitude," he said. "There is a large debris pattern," according to Military.com.
All seven service members perished in the crash. All were members of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion under the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire MARSOC family at this time," MARSOC's chief of staff said in a statement released by the military. "The incredible demands of this dangerous and demanding calling forge some of the tightest unit and family bonds found in the US military. This loss impacts us all."
As a safety precaution, explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) teams have been posted near the crash site, according to Marine officials, and James said that sites are being preserved so that an investigation into the crash can be conducted.