LEFLORE CO., MS (WMC) - Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant warned people not to remove the debris from the area where a Marine Corps airplane crashed Monday afternoon, killing all 16 people on board.
Law enforcement received reports on Tuesday that items were being taken from the crash site. Debris from the plane is scattered for miles and while deputies and state troopers are trying to control access to the area, the sheer number of roads is making it more difficult.
Gov. Bryant warns that anyone who takes debris from the crash site could be prosecuted.
The plane departed from Cherry Point, North Carolina, on its way to the West Coast. It was carrying personnel, weapons, and ammunition.
The KC-130T crashed in Leflore County after investigators said it likely exploded in mid-air. Debris was found on both sides of Highway 82 around the crash site.
Marine officials said seven of the killed service members were from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. According to a Marine Corps Public Affairs Officer, at least some of the other service members were stationed out of New York.
The squadron stationed out of New York is VMGR-452, a Marine Corps reserve squadron stationed at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, which is 60 miles north of New York City. The squadron refueled planes for Operation Desert Storm/Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The plane crashed in Mississippi on its way to the West Coast. Marine representatives released two possible destinations for the flight: Naval Airfield El Centro in California or Yuma, Arizona. The locations are about 70 miles apart.
Major Andrew Aranda, a Marine Corps public affairs officer, said there is no reason to believe foul play was involved. He said the Marine Corps will investigate every aspect of the crash in order to determine what went wrong and how to keep it from ever happening again.
"Every thing is going to be looked at, and if there are lessons that can be learned, they will be implemented," Aranda said.
He also said he, and every Marine Corp aviator, implicitly trusts the men and women who maintain and service all of the military's aircraft.
"We have some of the best maintainers in the world. I trust my life to those guys numerous times, and every Marine has that same trust," Aranda said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire MARSOC family at this time," said a Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) chief of staff. "The incredible demands of this dangerous and demanding calling forge some of the tightest unit and family bonds found in the U.S. military. This loss impacts us all."
This is the deadliest Marine Corps aviation accident since 2005, when 31 Marines were killed in a CH-35 crash in al-Anbar Province in Iraq.
An Explosive Ordnance Disposal team is at the crash site as a precaution for investigators. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Mississippi Emergency Management Association, and other local and regional agencies are also on the scene.