A U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from the 198th Airlift Squadron, Puerto Rico Air Guard, June 7, 2012. Photo by A1C James Richardson
The Puerto Rico Air National Guard on Thursday named the nine-member crew killed when their WC-130H crashed near Savannah, Ga., in one of the deadliest USAF mishaps in recent history.
The WC-130H, 65-0968, from the 198th Airlift Squadron, 156th Airlift Wing, crashed shortly after takeoff from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. The aircraft, one of the oldest C-130Hs in the Air Force’s inventory, was completing regular maintenance in Savannah and was headed to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., for retirement.
The nine crew members are:
Pilot Maj. Jose R. Roman Rosado from Manati, P.R., served for 18 years, and is survived by his wife and two sons.
Navigator Maj. Carlos Perez Serra from Canovanas, P.R., served for 23 years and is survived by his wife, two sons, and a daughter.
Co-pilot 1st Lt. David Albandoz from Puerto Rico but recently resided in Madison, Ala. He served for 16 years and is survived by his wife and daughter.
Mechanic SMSgt. Jan Paravisini from Canovanas, P.R., served for 21 years and is survived by two daughters and a son.
MSgt. Jean Audriffred from Carolina, P.R., had 16 years of service and is survived by his wife and two sons.
Flight engineer MSgt. Mario Brana from Bayamon, P.R., had 17 years of service and is survived by his mother and daughter.
MSgt. Victor Colon from Santa Isabel, P.R., had 22 years of service and is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Loadmaster MSgt. Eric Circuns from Rio Grande, P.R., had 31 years of service and is survived by his wife, two step daughters, and a son.
SrA. Roberto Espada from Salinas, P.R., had three years of service and is survived by his grandmother.
“Taking care of our fallen airmen’s families and loved ones is our top priority,” Puerto Rico Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Isabelo Rivera said in a statement. “We are fully supporting them and providing all the assistance and resources of the Puerto Rico National Guard during this difficult moment.”
The WC-130H is one of seven in USAF inventory, all flown by the Puerto Rico Guard. They previously served as Hurricane Hunters for the Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron before transferring to multiple Air National Guard units and ending up in Puerto Rico.
Rivero told The Associated Press that “it’s not news” his unit flies “the oldest planes on inventory” in the Guard. Puerto Rico Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen said Thursday that in recent years the wing has sent old aircraft to the boneyard as it is in the process of receiving newer C-130s as replacements.
The fleet flies weather reconnaissance missions into tropical storms. It also provides airlift for US Southern Command and participates in regional exercises. The unit was very active in storm response in 2017, airlifting supplies and evacuating civilians both on Puerto Rico and in nearby islands as hurricanes devestated the Caribbean.
“The Puerto Rico Air National Guard and the whole Puerto Rico community [have] been through quite a lot over the last few months,” said Col. Pete Boone, spokesman for the Georgia Air National Guard, during a Thursday press conference.