Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services asked for prayers for the 15 Marines and one Navy corpsman who died July 10 when a Marine refueling and cargo plane crashed in a soybean field in rural Mississippi near the town of Itta Bena.
The Marines said the air tanker was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, and headed to California. Seven of the dead were special operations forces based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where the plane had stopped en route to California.
Among the deceased are two men from the area: Sgt. Owen J. Lennon of Rockland and Cpl. Daniel I. Baldassare of Monmouth, N.J. Both were stationed at Stewart in Newburgh.
“I express my heartfelt condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this terrible accident. My heart also goes out to their colleagues and others who worked with them. They also suffer the loss and ask questions,” Archbishop Broglio said in a July 11 statement. “I ask the faithful to join me in prayer for the repose of those who died and the consolation of their families.”
In addition to Lennon and Baldassare, the deceased include seven other Marines who belonged to the VMGR-452 at Stewart Air Base in Newburgh: Maj. Caine M. Goyette; Capt. Sean E. Elliott of Orange, Calif.; Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Hopkins of Chesapeake, Va.; Gunnery Sgt. Brendan C. Johnson of Chittenden, Vt.; Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Snowden of Dallas; Sgt. Julian M. Kevianne of Dallas and Cpl. Collin J. Schaaff of Pierce, Wash.
Also, six Marines with 2d Raider Battalion in Camp Lejeune, and one Navy corpsman with 2d Raider Battalion: Staff Sgt. Robert H. Cox of Ventura, Calif.; Staff Sgt. William J. Kundrat of Frederick, Md.; Sgt. Chad E. Jenson of Los Angeles; Sgt. Talon R. Leach of Callaway, Mo.; Sgt. Joseph J. Murray of Duval, Fla.; Sgt. Dietrich A. Schmieman of Benton, Wash. and Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan M. Lohrey of Middletown, Ind.
At press time, the bodies of the servicemen were still undergoing examination at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and had yet to be released to the families.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant used Twitter July 11 to warn people not to remove debris from the area where the Marine Corps KC-130T Hercules crashed. Law enforcement authorities had received reports that items were being taken from the site, with debris scattered for miles.
Archbishop Broglio added, “Tragically, this is the second multi-fatal accident involving the Armed Forces in less than a month, coming so soon after the USS Fitzgerald collision with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan on June 17.
“Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to defend our great nation and the freedoms we cherish. We should keep them in our prayers always, and never take their sacrifice for granted.” —CNS
Christie L. Chicoine of Catholic New York contributed to this report.