Nine passengers were killed in what appeared to be a stalled plane accident upon returning to Puerto Rico from Georgia on Wednesday (May 2). As of Thursday, authorities identified the dead as Puerto Rican National Guard airmen, the Washington Post reports.
The deceased were identified by the Associated Press as Pilot Maj. Jose R Roman Rosado from Manati, 1st Lt. David Albandoz, a Puerto Rico native who’d been living in Madison, Ala., Maj. Carlos Perez Serra from Canovanas, Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini, who was also from Canovanas, Master Sgt. Mario Brana, a Bayamon-born flight engineer, Master Sgt. Victor Colon of Santa Isabel, Master Sgt Eric Circuns, a Rio Grande loadmaster and Senior Airman Roberto Espada of Salinas.
The crew flew in a C-130 cargo plane to Savannah for maintenance and were setting out for Arizona at around 11:30 a.m. It had only traveled approximately a mile from its starting point before taking a nose-first dive into a state highway intersection and exploding into a billow of fire and black smoke, seen for miles beyond its location. The plane was intended to be retired once it landed in Arizona.
Col. Pete Boone, Georgia’s Air National Guard spokesman, said at a news conference regarding the crash that the plane was built in the late 1970s and was in Georgia for what he called routine maintenance. According to Boone, the military investigation was centered on the question of whether the crash was related to the craft’s age or the maintenance.
But Boone’s colleague made a contradictory statement in succession. Adjutant General Isabelo Rivera said that the plane was “old and in disrepair” as of Wednesday, per the Post. Of Puerto Rico’s 156th Airlift Wing, destroyed by Hurricane Maria last fall, Rivera called two inoperable and the one that crashed on Wednesday was allegedly scheduled for retirement at its destination in Arizona. The spokesman, Boone, neglected to confirm this at Thursday’s news conference. “The planes that we have in Puerto Rico –– it’s not news today that they are the oldest planes on [National Guard] inventory,” he said to the Associated Press. “This pains us.”
The same C-130 served as a rescue craft. It was used to relocate stranded Americans from the British Virgin Islands when Hurricane Irma hit last year, AP wrote. But days later, the 156th Airlift Wing, based in Puerto Rico, was wrecked by Hurricane Maria. It continued to move supplied from the U.S. to Puerto Rico.
The storm depressed Puerto Rico’s landscape and economy in September, and it’s still working to recover. Many are still without electricity and revenue distribution is a source of contention. Puerto Rico’s May Day March on Tuesday was a response to the general inattention of the people’s issues and requests; there was violence including tear gas and the heaving of projectiles. Again, the people felt unnoticed.
The ruined unit will see more grief and the island will continue to weep after nearly eight months of lament.