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Managers of a Newburgh diner are saddened by news that a Marine reserve squadron based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh was involved in the plane crash Monday that claimed 16 lives in Mississippi.
Seth Harrison/Poughkeepsie Journal

NEWBURGH, N.Y. — News of a plane crash that claimed the lives of 16 service members reverberated through the tight-knit community around Stewart Air National Guard Base on Tuesday.

Ann-Marie Rant, whose family owns the Neptune Diner near the entrance to the base, said that many of the customers are military and retired service members. 

“You see a lot of respect for the military here,” she said.

As many as nine members of a Marine Corps reserve squadron based at Stewart were involved in a crash of a KC-130T aircraft in Mississippi on Monday, military officials said.

The plane was part of the Stewart-based Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron (VMGR) 452. The local unit is known as “The Yankees” and its patch bears an interlocking N.Y. and pinstripes reminiscent of the baseball team.

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In all, 15 Marines and one Navy corpsman died. Officials said that seven of the 16 were from North Carolina.

A pall fell over the base and nearby community Tuesday as details of the crash slowly trickled in. Flowers and U.S. flags were placed near the front entrance to the base, where media from several news organizations gathered throughout the day. 

Area residents lamented the event as a tragedy.

“It’s just horrible,” said Fred Decker, a Gardiner resident, “and it hits even harder knowing the local impact.”

Rant, the diner co-owner, said it is not uncommon for patrons to pick up the tab for members of the military when they go to pay their checks.

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The military refueling plane crashed in a soybean field in rural Mississippi, killing at least 16 people. The local sheriff said, “Most of them are gonna be Marines.”
USA TODAY

The names of those killed in the crash have not yet been released, pending family notification. U.S. Marine Forces Reserve spokesman Maj. Andrew Aranda said officials are working through that process.

“That involves a casualty assistance calls officer, and usually they’re accompanied by … a member from the unit and a chaplain as well,” Aranda said Tuesday.

It is the deadliest Marine plane crash since 2005. The cause is not known. The FBI is assisting with the investigation, as is protocol, but foul play is not suspected.

The Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron for more than 20 years has been a “tenant unit” at Stewart, according to Master Sgt. Sara Pastorello, who works in public affairs for the New York Air National Guard.

Ed Trosclair, a Marine Corps veteran from Newburgh, said he was heartbroken.

Trosclair said his nephew, a Marine stationed at Stewart, informed him of the crash. One of the people on the plane was a neighbor of Trosclair’s nephew.

The crash’s local impact only makes the situation more tragic, Trosclair said.

“It does affect me,” he said. “It just hurts so bad, it just makes me want to cry.

Trosclair lowered a U.S. flag and a Marine Corps flag on his property to half-staff in response to the crash.

“My heart goes out to the family and friends of those affected by this,” he said.

Philip Pipitone, a Campbell Hall resident shopping at Walmart in Newburgh on Tuesday, said the event was “a shame.”

“These people didn’t die in combat, but they dedicated their lives to serving our country,” Pipitone said. 

Contributing: Seth Harrison, the Poughkeepsie Journal; The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger; The Associated Press

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