By The Associated Press
ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AP) — The deadly crash of a military cargo plane on a training mission occurred just about a minute after it took off from a runway at an Alaska base, officials said Thursday.
Three of the men killed in the Wednesday evening accident were in the Alaska Air National Guard, and the fourth was on active duty at Elmendorf, Air Force Col. Jack McMullen said Thursday.
Their names have not been released pending notification of relatives.
“It’s a sad day,” McMullen said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those that have lost spouses, sons.”
The C-17 was part of the 3rd Wing, based at Elmendorf in Anchorage. The crash sent a fireball hundreds of feet into the air when it occurred about 6:14 p.m. during a training demonstration for a weekend air show, Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins said.
“About a minute after takeoff is when I got the call that we had a mishap,” McMullen said.
Few other details were known, he said.
Anchorage Fire Dept. Captain Bryan Grella said his crew was just finishing dinner at the downtown fire station when something caught his eye.
“It was a big, gray plume of smoke, and I saw a fireball go up in it,” he said. The fireball extended about 750 feet in the air, he estimated.
The crash site has been secured, and a military investigative team is scheduled to arrive within 24 hours to try to determine the cause of the crash.
McMullen said a decision was likely Thursday on whether the show will go on as planned.
The crash was the second in Anchorage this summer. In June, a child was killed and four other people were burned when a small plane crashed after taking off from the city’s small-airplane airport downtown.
Days later, a small plane landed on a busy highway in Anchorage. There were no injuries.
Gov. Sean Parnell and the three members of the state’s congressional delegation issued statements late Wednesday expressing sadness over the crash.
“This is a tragedy in every sense of the word,” U.S. Rep. Don Young said in a statement.