PORT WENTWORTH, GA (WTOC) - There are no confirmed survivors after a military plane crashed on GA-21 at Gulfstream Road in Port Wentworth. GA. The plane was carrying nine people on board.
According to a news release from the 165th Airlift Wing in Savannah, the C-130 Hercules cargo plane from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard crashed at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday while performing a training mission. The Federal Aviation Administration says the plane was headed to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ.
Hwy 21 between Crossgate Road and Dean Forest Road will be closed indefinitely. The train tracks were also affected and are closed.
Our David Klugh examined crash video captured by a nearby business' surveillance camera. WARNING: The video may be too graphic for some viewers:
Gulfstream tells us emergency personnel has removed the roadblocks at Robert B. Miller Road and Airways Avenue, enabling normal access to all parking lots at the main facility. Access to Gulfstream Road from Highway 21 remains closed.
The Georgia Ports Authority released the following statement for employees:
The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System sent a notification to parents advising that power, phone, and network services had been knocked out at both Port Wentworth Elementary and Rice Creek School due to the crash. Officials advise that there are no impacts or threats to the schools. School operations currently remain on our regular operating regular schedule. We are told the SCCPSS Transportation Department has assessed the road closures in the area and has determined that there will be no delays to transportation Wednesday afternoon.
Also, we are told that individuals should check with their airline if they are flying out of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.
"As far as we know, there were no cars hit in this crash. It is an absolute miracle at that time of day, at that intersection," said Gena Bilbo, Effingham County Sheriff's Office.
"We're not releasing numbers on anything until we get an accurate count on everything," said Roger Parsons, Senior Master, GA Air National Guard. "We want to make sure when we come forward that we're accurate with our numbers and that the families have all been notified. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. Anytime we lose our brothers and sisters in arms, it's devastating."
We spoke to one couple who actually pulled up to the scene of the crash right after it happened.
"It's just unexplainable. Everything was gone. People just rushing to try and help," said Melissa James.
"This is really, truly a travesty," said Timothy James.
The James' were both working nearby when the aircraft flew over their office at what they say was a low altitude.
"I saw the plane come over the tree line, over the container yard where I work, and it went up into an embankment and then came down like a corkscrew in the middle of 21," Timothy James said.
Military police are handling the entirety of the investigation while local law enforcement takes over the traffic challenges. Highway 21 will remain closed from Dean Forest Road, which is a major work commute thoroughfare for Rincon, Effingham, and Port Wentworth residents. The crash caused a 600x600 foot field of debris, which is why that portion of the highway is shut down.
There is no timeline right now on when the road will be back open, but officials say the impact of the closure will be on a much larger scale.
"We're going to stress to the local population, this is going to drastically affect your life for an extended period of time. I wish I could tell you more as to how long. We don't know," said Chief Matt Libby, Port Wentworth Police.
Law enforcement says the military must first investigate the crash site. Once that's complete, crews will need to clean up the aircraft and debris field. Hazardous material will then need to be examined before the Department of Transportation can complete the final step.
"Then the roadway is going to have to be evaluated by the Department of Transportation and repaired before it's able to be reopened," Bilbo said.
If you're traveling in the area, the suggested alternate route is Dean Forest Road, continue north past Highway 21, then take Jimmy DeLoach Connector until the Sonny Dixon Interchange. That will put you back on Highway 21. While this seems like an easy backup, officials say no part of this closure will be easy.
"It's going to affect everything we do. It's not just going to affect Port Wentworth, it's going to affect Chatham County and Effingham County. It's going to affect our children getting to and from school," Bilbo said.
To alleviate congestion, officials are asking the community for help.
"I'm going to ask the drivers to make alternate plans, to please plan ahead, give yourself plenty of time, not be distracted, and be patient."
President Donald J. Trump tweeted about the incident on Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Buddy Carter also shared his thoughts via Twitter:
The military and federal government are leading the investigation. Hundreds of police and firefighters from nearby cities and counties answered the call for help. The support proved vital in the minutes and even hours since the crash.
"We are a 30-man department. This is something that we're reaching out to every agency, the Georgia State Patrol, the Motor Carriers Compliance. We're going to reach out to the Georgia National Guard for MPs in the morning," Chief Libby said.
Highway 21 could be closed for weeks. Once the plane is removed, construction crews may have to repair the road. First responders say it's nothing short of a miracle that no one on the ground died or got hurt in the crash.
Captain Daniel Maples was one of the first responders on the scene.
"Extremely emotional. Makes you want to hold your family close. It makes you appreciate all of the first responders, firefighters, EMTs. It really makes us evaluate the job we do and why we do it," he said.
Stay with us for the very latest as soon as it becomes available.