ITTA BENA, Miss. -- A U.S. military plane crashed into a field in rural Mississippi Monday, killing all 16 people on board, spreading debris for miles and creating a fiery wreckage, officials said.
Leflore County Emergency Management Agency Director Frank Randle told reporters at a late briefing that 16 bodies had been recovered after the KC-130 spiraled into the ground about 85 miles north of Jackson in the Mississippi Delta.
Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns said in a statement that a KC-130 "experienced a mishap" Monday evening but provided no details. The KC-130 is a military transport plane, according to the Marine Forces Reserve., which is leading the investigation into the cause of the crash.
Andy Jones said he was working on his family's catfish farm just before 4 p.m. when he heard a boom and looked up to see the plane corkscrewing downward with one engine smoking.
View of July 10, 2017 military plane crash in Mississippi Delta THE ENTERPRISE-TOCSIN
"You looked up and you saw the plane twirling around," he said. "It was spinning down."
Jones said the plane hit the ground behind some trees in a soybean field, and by the time he and other reached the crash site, fires were burning too intensely to approach the wreckage. The force of the crash nearly flattened the plane, Jones said.
"Beans are about waist-high, and there wasn't much sticking out above the beans," he said.
Jones said a man borrowed his cellphone to report to authorities that there were bodies across U.S. Highway 82, more than a mile from the crash site.
Greenwood Fire Chief Marcus Banks told the Greenwood Commonwealth that debris from the plane was scattered in a radius of about 5 miles.
President Trump called the crash "heartbreaking" in a Twitter post on Tuesday morning.
Jones said firefighters tried to put out the fire at the main crash site but withdrew after an explosion forced them back. The fire produced towering plumes of black smoke visible for miles across the flat region and continued to burn after dusk, more than four hours after the crash.
"It was one of the worst fires you can imagine," Jones said. He said the fire was punctuated by the pops of small explosions.
The Marine Forces Reserve said the flight originated from the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, N.C.