At least 12 bodies were recovered from the crash site of a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130 refueling plane that crashed Monday evening in a soybean field in Mississippi, authorities said.
The search for additional victims is continuing. The Marine Corps said the aircraft “experienced a mishap.” The plane spiraled down at about 4 p.m. in a field about 85 miles north of Jackson. The plane’s debris could were scattered in a radius of about five miles.
Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks told The Associated Press that officials were still searching for bodies after nightfall.
“We’re still searching the area,” Banks said. “It’s hard to find bodies in the dark.”
Banks earlier told the Greenwood Commonwealth that 16 people were believed to be on board but would not confirm that information to the AP. Banks said officials had found at least 12 bodies, but couldn’t rule out that more had been or would be found.
Some unconfirmed reports said 16 bodies were recovered.
The Marine Corps says it operated the plane but has provided no information on where the flight originated or where it was going.
Alan Hammons, an official at Greenwood Airport, told WNCN that the aircraft suffered a “structural failure” at 20,000 feet. The Clarion Ledger reported that the plane departed from Naval Support Activity Mid-South Base in Millington, Tenn.
An intense fire fed by jet fuel hampered firefighters, causing them to turn to unmanned devices in an attempt to control the flames, authorities said. There were several high-intensity explosions.
Aerial pictures taken by WLBT-TV showed the skeleton of the plane burning, producing plumes of black smoke visible for miles across the flat landscape of the delta.
Austin Jones, who owns a neighboring farm, said the fire continued after sunset.
“It’s burning worse now than it was early in the afternoon,” said Jones. He said his son watched the plane go down while working on the farm and said it was smoking as it descended.
Officials did not have information on what caused the crash or where the flight originated.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.