SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Department of Defense identified the victims of a deadly KC-135 crash on Sunday. Three airmen based out of Fairchild Air Force Base died on Friday while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom near Chon-Aryk, Kyrgyzstan. Killed were:
Capt. Mark T. Voss, 27, of Colorado Springs, Colo.,
Capt. Victoria A. Pinckney, 27, of Palmdale, Calif., and
Tech Sgt. Herman Mackey III, 30, of Bakersfield, Calif.
The airmen were assigned to the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The cause of the crash is under investigation according to the Department of Defense.
Col. Brian Newberry, 92d Air Refueling Wing Commander, announced Sunday that he will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. to discuss the three Fairchild Airmen who died.
“We will forever honor Tyler, Tori and Tre as patriots and heroes. Team Fairchild will do everything we can to support their families and friends during this profoundly difficult time. These Airmen leave behind an incredible legacy of service and honor in protecting our nation and the world. They show what we all know, freedom is not free,” said Newberry.
The KC-135 plane crashed Friday afternoon about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of the air base. Emergencies Minister Kubatbek Boronov told The Associated Press that Kyrgyz search teams found the two fragmented bodies Saturday morning. Dozens of U.S. military personnel scoured the area on Saturday and set up a security cordon around the crash site.
Parts of the plane were scattered across a wide area near the village of Chaldovar. Some pieces, including the tail, came down in a grassy valley bordered by steep mountains, but others landed in spots much more difficult for search teams to reach.
Residents of the rural, sheep-herding region described hearing the plane explode in the air and seeing it break apart as it fell.
"I heard a very loud explosion," Emil Bokochev, a member of the village council, told an AP reporter at the site. "Literally six or seven seconds afterward there was another explosion and the plane broke apart into four or five pieces and at that moment we thought it was going to fall on the village Chaldovar."
The plane was on a refueling mission for Afghanistan war operations at the time of the crash, a U.S. defense official in Washington said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the details of an ongoing investigation.