A military transport aircraft crashed on Wednesday near Savannah, Georgia, authorities say. The plane was a part of the Puerto Rican National Air Guard. According to a tweet from Fox 5 Atlanta, at least five people are dead, based on a statement from the Georgia National Guard. CNN reports that there were five crew members on the plane.
In its statement on the crash, the U.S. Air Force said that a crew on this type of flight normally has five members and that the plane, a WC-130 is typically used for weather reconnaissance. The aircraft went down in a suburb of Savannah called Port Wentworth just a couple of miles away from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, off state Highway 21. An airport press rep, Candace Carpenter, told the media that people could see smoke from the crash at the airport.
“I looked over to my right and seen the plane at very low altitude and making a hard left turn to the ground,” one eyewitness told CNN. He went on to say that the crash happened so fast that he was only able pull out his phone in time to record the explosion.
— FOX 5 Atlanta (@FOX5Atlanta) May 2, 2018
“It was horrible,” said another eyewitness who said that she works close to the scene of the crash. “The ground shook like a bomb was going off. All the people in the building started panicking. It was absolutely horrible.”
A Twitter user got this photo of the massive cloud of smoke coming from the scene.
— Minh Phan (@WXMinh) May 2, 2018
The crash has impacted the schedule of flights coming in and out of the nearby airports. As CNN notes, a tweet from the airport’s Twitter account advised passengers to verify the status of their flights before entering the security checkpoint.
Fox 5 reports that the cause of the crash is not clear at this point.
— Jaclyn Schultz FOX 5 (@jaclynFOX5ATL) May 2, 2018
Gena Bilbo, public information officer for Effingham County Sheriff’s Office told the media that no cars were hit during the crash, which is “an absolute miracle” given its proximity to the highway, according to CNN. They expect the highway to be closed for weeks and the electric supply to the area has been cut.
One witness told CNN that from his vantage point, he could tell that the pilot was trying not to hit people during the descent.
“The guy is a hero he barely made it over the tree line looked as if he tried to turn and nose dive straight into the ground right in front of me,” he said.