Wednesday, 12 Dec 2018

Military families killed in Mississippi disaster want more answers

In this July 10, 2017, a file image made from a video provided by WLBT-TV, smoke and flames are born from a military plane that crashed into a field of farm in Itta Bena, Missouri. Fifteen Marines and a sailor died as a result of the disaster. (WLBT-TV via AP, File)

Ashley Kundrat and the man she was marrying first got close to Frederick High School in Maryland. They dated back to that time, and in 2004 they started a family that could include a son, a daughter, cooking parties and many hikes. .

All this changed in a few decisive moments to 20,000 feet above rural Mississippi. On July 10, 2017, Sgt. William J. Kundrat, 33 years old, was one of 15 Marines and a sailor who were killed when a KC-130T transport aircraft disintegrated into explosions and crashed into a soybean field in Itta Bena.

In findings released Dec. 6, the service determined that the disaster had begun when a corroded propeller blade on the left wing of the aircraft had been released, pulling into the fuselage . This triggered a chain reaction during which an entire helix of the right wing detached and pierced the body of the aircraft. The plane fell apart in a series of explosions.

Investigators found that the destruction was preventable: The corrosion of the first propeller blade to disappear should have been spotted six years earlier during a maintenance operation.

Kundrat's widow said the long wait for the results of the investigation was frustrating, especially as senior Navy officials gave six additional delays to allow investigators to search for more information. About 17 months later, she and other Gold Star families who lost loved ones were informed of the results shortly before they were released.

"It was very frustrating for all of us, and I would have liked to stay a little bit more informed in this regard," she said. "It's difficult with the death of your husband and your friends, and knowing that people know what happened, and yet you are kept in the dark, it was a very frustrating point."

The search for information is not complete. Kundrat said that she and other families involved are in contact with a lawyer who will seek additional information in order to ensure that no similar disaster will happen again.

The investigation revealed six years of maintenance failures at the Air Force Warner Robins logistics complex in Georgia, as well as under the supervision of the Department of Marine, which was supposed to provide quality assurance. Investigators have discovered that corrosion on the first blade of the propeller should have been noted during the revision of the aircraft in 2011.

Among the outstanding issues, Kundrat wonders who oversaw the imperfect work at Warner Robins and how long there was incomplete maintenance without adequate oversight by the Navy Department.

She also wanted to know who decided that the 2011 revision files should only be kept for two years, as during the investigation, and if there were other incidents caused by faulty work. at Warner Robins.

The lawyer, Timothy A. Loranger, said the families wanted more detailed explanations of how the disaster might have occurred.

"It's awful to think that these Marine and Navy soldiers boarded this plane, confident that everyone had done their job," said Loranger. "Such a failure is outrageous. It is outrageous to think that they can not assume that the military and the people who work for it do not reach the highest standards that we would expect. It's really devastating for everyone. "

Among the service members killed were seven members of an elite Marine Raider group from Camp Lejeune, Northeast, and nine members of the Marine Squadron Transport Transport Aerial 452, a reserve unit in Newburgh. , in New York, who operated the plane.

The disaster was part of a series of fatal accidents involving a military aircraft in recent years, which raised questions as to whether the aircraft was properly maintained and whether any service members were involved. Assistance who provided the maintenance and care had proper training.

The findings of the investigation were made public as Japanese and Australian authorities sought survivors of another air disaster off the coast of Japan. In this one, an F / A-18 Hornet and a KC-130 Hercules collided during a refueling exercise before Thursday's dawn.

One seaman was saved in the water and another – identified as Captain Jahmar Resilard – was found dead. Five other Marines were still missing Saturday, with the hope of finding them alive in decline.

Marine Corps spokesman Major Roger Hollenbach said in a statement that the service was committed to providing all possible assistance to bereaved families.

"We had to allow families to do the most thorough and detailed job possible," he said. "An investigation of this magnitude is incredibly detailed and it is imperative that each step be taken correctly – unfortunately, it takes time."

Hollenback added that providing families with specific updates to the ongoing investigation would have been incomplete. His unit, the Marine Forces Reserve, "wanted to ensure that all the entities involved completed their detailed examination so that they could provide full conclusions and information".

In addition to Kundrat, the dead of the Marine Raider team include the Sgt Staff. Robert Cox, 28; Sgt. Chad E. Jenson, 25; Sgt. Talon R. Leach, 27 years old; Sgt. Joseph J. Murray, 26 years old; Sgt. Dietrich A. Schmieman, 26 years old; and 2nd Class Marine Master Ryan M. Lohrey, 30 years old.

The Marines of the transport squadron killed include Major Caine M. Goyette, 41; Captain Sean E. Elliot, 30 years old; Shooting Sergeant Mark A. Hopkins, 34; Shooter Sergeant Brendan Johnson, 45; Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Snowden, 31 years old; Sgt. Julian M. Kevianne, 31 years old; Sgt. Owen J. Lennon, 26 years old; Cap. Daniel I. Baldassare, 20 years old; and cap. Collin J. Schaaff, 22 years old.


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