The crash of an Air National Guard transport was the second fatal crash in less than a year involving a version of the C-130, a workhorse of military aviation.
ATLANTA — An Air National Guard transport plane crashed near the Georgia coast on Wednesday, killing at least five service members and prompting a new inquiry into one of the military’s most widely used aircraft.
The plane, a C-130 Hercules, crashed on a clear morning close to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. It was the second time in less than a year that a version of the C-130 was involved in a fatal episode.
“Any time we lose any of our brothers and sisters in arms, it’s devastating,” Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons of the Georgia Air National Guard said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon about the crash.
The military said that the plane was associated with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, and that it was bound for Arizona on a training mission when it crashed. It was not immediately clear exactly how many people were on board. Officials did not publicly identify any of the five people who were confirmed killed.
Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló of Puerto Rico said on Twitter that the episode was an “unfortunate accident,” an assessment that the military echoed in its own initial statement. A formal investigation into the cause of the crash will take months.
The plane came down at an intersection on Georgia State Highway 21, in an area of woods and light industry just northeast of the airport grounds. A photograph released by the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association showed the tail of the plane, with an American flag on its vertical stabilizer, lying next to the road and engulfed by orange flames and black smoke. Another image of the aftermath of the crash showed a sprawling scene of debris and charred roadway.
President Trump said on Twitter that he had been briefed on the crash.
“Please join me in thoughts and prayers for the victims, their families and the great men and women of the National Guard,” Mr. Trump wrote.
The C-130 family of aircraft are regarded as among the military’s safest. They were developed after the Pentagon found World War II-era planes like the C-47 to be insufficient during the Korean War. The manufacturer, then known as Lockheed, responded with a design that has won renown for its versatility, and is now used in about 60 countries.
Still, Wednesday’s crash was a new blemish on the plane’s record, coming almost 10 months after fifteen Marines and a sailor died when an air tanker version of the plane, a KC-130T, plunged into farmland in rural Mississippi.
The inquiry into that crash has not been completed. A Marine general said last year that it appeared “something went wrong at cruise altitude.”
On Wednesday, officials in Georgia, where the governor observed a moment of silence for the crash victims at a bill signing in Statesboro, said they expected the inquiry into the crash to be protracted, and potentially disruptive to day-to-day life in the surrounding Port Wentworth community outside Savannah. The authorities cut electric power to the area of the crash, suspended service on a rail line that runs next to Highway 21, and warned that a stretch of the roadway could remain closed for weeks.
“As far as we know, there were no cars hit in this crash,” said Gena Bilbo, a spokeswoman for the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office. “It is an absolute miracle at that time of day and that intersection.”