LEFLORE CO., MS (WMC) - A farmer whose property sits about 300 yards from where the military plane crashed Monday was one of the first people to get there after the plane went down.
Andy Jones manages Bear Creek Fisheries, a catfish farm in Moorhead, Mississippi. He and a few other workers were harvesting fish when the plane went down in a nearby field.
"I looked up and saw the smoke from the wing. At first, I thought it was, like, a stunt plane, you know an acrobatic deal the way it was nosediving down," Jones recalled.
Jones said he immediately called 911 and headed to the crash site.
"Nobody went out there and approached the burning aircraft, obviously. I mean, it was totally engulfed," Jones said.
Greenwood, Mississippi's fire chief, Marcus Banks, who has flown in a KC-130 and spent 12 years in the Army Reserves, initially thought a crop duster had crashed.
"A large degree of smoke, high heat," he explained. "We noticed we didn't know what was burning at the time."
Since he couldn't get to the crash site, Jones decided to help in another way. He and his workers used farm equipment to barricade the roads leading to the crash site, an effort to help clear the area for law enforcement.
"You want to help law enforcement do their job. You want to stay out of their way," he said.
Sixteen people were killed in the plane crash that Jones witnessed. The plane, which took off from Cherry Point, North Carolina, was on its way to California carrying weapons and ammunition, in addition to personnel.
"We all come together when something happens and the military means a lot to me," said Brenda Cockrell, who placed black balloons by the road that leads to a portion of the wreckage.
Fifteen of the people on board were Marines and one person was a Navy Corpsman. The service members were from New York and North Carolina. The identities of those on board have not yet been released.
"We want to give those families all the time they need during this difficult time, so they can get all the support they need," Major Andrew Aranda, U.S. Marine Corps, said.