A military cargo plane that plummeted onto a Georgia highway on Wednesday killing all nine people on board was on its final official flight after more than 60 years of service.
The ageing C-130 Hercules, part of Puerto Rico's National Guard fleet that assisted with relief efforts after Hurricane Irma, was being flown for retirement in Arizona when it nosedived onto the intersection of Highway 21 and Crossgate Road at 11.30am.
The fiery crash took place moments after the plane took off from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, where it had received maintenance for 'a number of days'.
It was flying to the Aerospace Regeneration and Maintenance Group in Arizona, nicknamed 'the Boneyard', which holds thousands of old military planes and spacecraft.
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Terrifying surveillance footage from a local business filmed the National Guard C-130 as it nose-dived on Wednesday not long after taking off from Savannah Hilton Head Airport. Video courtesy of WTOC
The ageing C-130 Hercules was on its final flight to a demonissioning centre in Tuscon, Arizona. After it vanished, a plume of fire and smoke wafted up from behind the buildings
This was the aftermath on the highway after the plane went down. It was entirely destroyed and debris was scattered across the four lanes and beyond
A firetruck sprays foam over the remains of an Air National Guard C-130 cargo plane from Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning
All nine crew members were Puerto Ricans who had helped with hurricane recovery efforts as part of the 198th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the Bucaneros, which flies out of Base Muniz in the northern coastal city of Carolina.
The squadron used the plane to rescue Americans from the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma, and later supplied food and water to Puerto Ricans desperate for help after Hurricane Maria.
'Nine crew members died in the accident, but until their families and relatives are notified, we cannot give their names,' said Brigadier General Isabelo Rivera, the assistant general of Puerto Rico.
Rivera said it was 'not news' Puerto Rico had the oldest planes on inventory nationwide and said his force often faced delays receiving deliveries of spare parts from the mainland.
President Donald Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the crash, and sent 'thoughts and prayers for the victims, their families and the great men and women of the National Guard.'
'The explosion, it was indescribable. It covered all 4 lanes and more. There was just a huge fireball of God knows what
An investigation into the crash is being carried out by the National Guard Bureau and the Air Force. The National Transportation Safety Board will not take part.
Surveillance footage filmed from a business near the site shows the aircraft nose-diving and disappearing from view behind some buildings before a huge cloud of fire and smoke erupts.
The huge plane came down so hard that the only part still intact was its tail section, with debris scattered around a 600 feet area. Officials called it 'miraculous' that the plane did not hit any cars.
The fuselage appeared to have struck the median, and pieces of its wings, which spanned 132 feet, were littered across lanes in both directions.