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Service members killed in Mississippi plane crash identified

Marine Dan Baldassare and Gunnery Sergeant Brendan Johnson

LEFLORE COUNTY, Miss. — A second service member killed in a KC-130 plane crash in Leflore County, Mississippi this week has been identified by family.

The names of the 16 killed have not officially been released, but a Vermont family told CBS affiliate WCAX in Burlington that 46-year-old Gunnery Sergeant Brendan Johnson was among the fallen.

“He was a very gentle person, he loved the outdoors,” said Kevin Johnson. “He was looking forward to retirement next year. He said it was time to move on and let some of the other kids take over.”

A New Jersey family identified another Marine killed as Dan Baldassare.

The 20-year-old would wear military gloves while playing football for his high school, and always bragged about how he was going to be a Marine.

Now investigators are tasked with trying to piece together what happened before the Marine air tanker suddenly crashed claiming the lives of 15 Marines and a sailor.

Seven of the crew members were Elite Special Operations Commandos based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Monday evening, authorities said the military transport plane exploded in the air, plunging 20,000 feet into a soybean field in Leflore County.

“They were on a training flight from Cherry Point, North Carolina to El Centro, California. They were on a mission to transport personnel and equipment,” said Major Andrew Aranda, public affairs officer for the Marines.

Near the crash site, many stood along the highway paying their respects.

“First thing I did is I dropped down on my knees and prayed. It’s the best I can do to honor their memory,” said retired Marine Arthur Ware.

While the FBI has joined the investigation, officials do not think foul play was involved.