Political News

Authorities name the Puerto Rican airmen killed in the military plane crash in Georgia

Posted May 3, 2018 1:31 p.m. EDT

— Puerto Rico's National Guard on Thursday identified the nine airmen killed a day earlier when an aging cargo plane nosedived into a Georgia highway.

The WC-130 plane, from the 156th Airlift Wing on the island, was flying Thursday from Savannah to Tucson, Arizona, when it crashed. The plane was at least 50 years old, an official familiar with the aircraft told CNN. But Col. Pete Boone, vice commander of the Savannah-based 165th Airlift Wing, told reporters Thursday the plane was manufactured in the late 1970s.

"Taking care of our fallen airmen's families and loved ones is our top priority," said Brig. Gen. Isabelo Rivera, adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard.

The pilot was identified as Maj. José R. Román Rosado, who had 18 years of service. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

The other Puerto Rican airmen were Maj. Carlos Pérez Serra, a navigator with 23 years of service, survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter; 1st Lt. David Albandoz, a co-pilot with 16 years of service, survived by his wife and daughter; Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini, a mechanic with 21 years of service, survived by two daughters and a son; Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred, with 16 years of service and survived by his wife and two sons; Master Sgt. Mario Braña, a flight engineer with 17 years of service, survived by his mother and daughter; Master Sgt. Víctor Colón, who had 22 years of service and is survived by his wife and two daughters; Master Sgt. Eric Circuns, a loadmaster with 31 years of service, survived by his wife, two step daughters and a son; and Senior Airman Roberto Espada, who had three years of service and is survived by his grandmother.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Roselló declared nine days of mourning for the crew, during which flags in the territory will fly at half-staff, according to a statement from his office.

The wreck left a debris field of 360,000 square feet -- about the area of six football fields, Chatham County officials said. Georgia Highway 21 will remain closed indefinitely as investigators examine the crash site and debris field, they said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the National Guard Bureau and the Air Force, said Rivera.

A team from Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina is conducting the investigation, while a team from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware was sent to recover the airmen's remains, Boone said.

The WC-130 that crashed was used during Hurricane Maria for relief efforts, the Puerto Rico National Guard said. The plane also was used during Hurricane Irma to rescue US citizens from the British Virgin Islands.

The American Red Cross is providing support services to families of the victims, officials said.