The US Air Force said that an Air National Guard WC-130 from the 156th Airlift Wing in Puerto Rico crashed in the area. The 165th Airlift Wing of the Georgia Air National Guard is responding to the scene, according to the Air Force. The WC-130 is used for weather reconnaissance, it said.
A local firefighters’ union reported the crash happened in the Savannah suburb of Port Wentworth.
The plane had five people on board, Georgia National Guard spokeswoman Desiree Bamba said. The passengers’ conditions are unknown, she said. The Air Force said five is a standard crew for the WC-130.
Christian Freeman saw the WC-130 go down, he told CNN. First, he heard a “loud, strange noise,” he said.
“I looked over to my right and seen the plane at very low altitude and making a hard left turn to the ground,” he said.
Ten to 15 seconds later, it crashed. It happened so quickly he didn’t have a chance to pull his phone out until after it exploded, Freeman said.
“It was horrible,” said Denver Goodwin, who works at a wrecker service down the street from the crash. “The ground shook like a bomb was going off. All the people in the building started panicking. It was absolutely horrible.”
Mary Hennessy Cogar was at her place of employment, about 4 miles south of the crash, and said she felt the impact.
“Our building shook and the lights flickered. We heard a boom of the crash and then a louder boom of the explosion,” she told CNN.
The crash occurred a few miles away from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, off state Highway 21, airport spokeswoman Candace Carpenter said. Smoke was visible from the airport.
Minh Phan was at an outlet mall in Pooler, Georgia, a few miles away when he captured an image of smoke rising over the tree line.
A tweet from the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association showed the tail of the plane emerging from black smoke and fire. Highway 21 has been shut down, the union said.
Flights out of the Savannah airport are being affected by the crash, according to a tweet from the airport that urged passengers to check the status of their flights before going through security.
Last month, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, released a statement saying the “readiness of the military is at a crisis point”after reports that 16 American service members had been killed in noncombat aircraft crashes over a matter of weeks.
Last summer, the Marine Corps ground its fleet of KC-130T aircraft — which, like the WC-130, is a variant of the C-130, following a crash that killed 15 Marines and one sailor in Mississippi.
By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN