Puerto Rico Air Guard plane crash victims identified
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico National Guard has released the names of the victims of the WC-130 Hercules aircraft accident Wednesday near Hilton Head Airport in Savannah, Georgia.
While performing a training mission, the U.S. C-130 Hercules cargo plane from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard crashed about 11:30 a.m., with the following Puerto Ricans on board:
–Maj. José R. Román Rosado – Pilot – 18 years of service – from Manati, PR. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
–Maj. Carlos Pérez Serra – Navigator – 23 years of service – from Canóvanas, PR. He is survived by his wife, two sons and daughter.
–1st Lt. David Albandoz – Co-Pilot – 16 years of service – from PR, recently residing in Madison, Alabama. He is survived by his wife and daughter.
–Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini – Mechanic – 21 years of service – from Canóvanas, PR. He is survived by two daughters and son.
–Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred – 16 years of service – from Carolina, PR. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
–Master Sgt. Mario Braña – Flight Engineer – 17 years of service – from Bayamón, PR. He is survived by his mother and daughter.
–Master Sgt. Víctor Colón – 22 years of service – from Santa Isabel, PR. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
–Master Sgt. Eric Circuns – Loadmaster – 31 years of service – from Río Grande, PR. He is survived by his wife, two step-daughters and son.
–Senior Airman Roberto Espada– three years of service – from Salinas, PR. He is survived by his grandmother.
“Taking care of our fallen Airmen’s families and loved ones is our top priority,” said the adjutant general of Puerto Rico, Brig. Gen. Isabelo Rivera. “We are fully supporting them and providing all the assistance and resources of the Puerto Rico National Guard during this difficult moment.”
The Puerto Rico Chapter of the American Red Cross has also been supporting the families with mental health and spiritual care resources.
“For all of us at the Red Cross this a very mournful moment; on behalf of our employees and volunteers we offer our most sincere condolences to the families. Our support teams are working with the families by identifying their needs and providing all necessary support during this process,” said Lee Vanessa Feliciano, American Red Cross regional executive officer.
The fallen officers “helped with hurricane recovery efforts as part of the 198th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the Bucaneros, which flies out of Base Muñiz in the northern coastal city of Carolina,” Rivera reportedly said.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló decreed nine days of mourning.
“Both Beatriz and I are dismayed by the plane crash. Our prayers for the family and friends of these nine Puerto Ricans. In their honor the flags will fly at half mast for nine days,” the governor said in a statement.
Rivera said the aircraft was heading toward the Aerospace Regeneration and Maintenance Group in Tucson, Arizona when the accident occurred.
“We know that the accident happened moments after starting the takeoff,” he said.
The plane had reportedly been in use for 40 years and was carrying out its last flight. It was used as part of the rescue work after Hurricane Irma to transport people from the affected islands.
“The plane was there 60 days ago. Two days ago they had declared that the plane was ready to take off and the flight tests had been made. Everything had turned out as scheduled and it was leaving on its final trip to Tucson, Arizona, which is where these planes are disposed of after they leave service. This was its last flight,” Rivera said in a WKAQ radio interview.
He explained that normally the aircraft are replaced by planes with less use, but not new planes.
“These aircraft are constantly being modified until a new version comes along. In fact, these planes were in the process of being delivered to receive replacements for them. The planes we are going to receive are 25 years younger than those. They are not aircraft from 2000 onward,” Rivera said, “They go back to the ’90s or ’85, around that time. That’s normal in aviation,” he added.
However, he maintained there is no theory about the cause of the accident and that “there will be an investigation, which has already begun, and which will be carried out by the Bureau of the National Guard and the United States Air Force. We cannot speak responsibly about the possible causes of the accident at this time because we must give space to the investigation before we can report.”
Veteran’s advocate Agustín Montañez Allman expressed his dismay and informed the fallen airmen’s families of the his office’s collaboration to help them after the tragedy.
“The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, its president, José B. Carrión, and all its members, its executive director, Natalie Jaresko, and its entire staff express their profound regret for the tragic accident…,” Carrión said in a statement. “We are grateful for the service of the brave servicemen that lost their lives in the line of duty and extend our deepest condolences to their families and colleagues. We stand in solidarity with the men and women of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard as they go through this difficult and heartbreaking situation.
Puerto Rico Rep. Joel Franqui ordered an investigation Thursday into the conditions of the military equipment used by the National Guard of Puerto Rico. Resolution 952 requires a report with its findings, especially regarding the equipment used by members of the National Guard for their missions and the allocation of federal and state funds to maintain or obtain new equipment.
The National Guard said a board of officers will investigate the accident.
-Cyber News contributed to this report.