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Air Force Investigators Search for Crash Answer

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 1996 – Air Force officials continue searching for the cause of the C-130 aircraft that crashed Aug. 17 near Jackson Hole, Wyo., while on a presidential support mission.

Air Combat Command conducted a safety day Aug. 23 for units to focus on ways to identify, assess and offset risk. Four days earlier, a team of investigators from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., and Hill Air Force Base, Utah, recovered the flight data and voice recorders from the wreckage.

All nine people aboard the aircraft died in the accident. They include eight crew members from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and a Secret Service employee from Washington. Dyess had a memorial service for the crash victims Aug. 21.

The cargo plane was carrying baggage and equipment supporting the president during a nine-day vacation in Wyoming. Two to three minutes after taking off, at 11:48 p.m. Mountain time, the C-130 crashed into the side of 11,300-foot Sleeping Indian Mountain at an elevation of about 10,600 feet, officials reported.

Dyess officials identified the air crew killed in the accident as Capt. Kevin Earnest, aircraft commander, Kingsport, Tenn.; Capt. Kimberly Jo Wielhouwer, pilot, Andover, Kan.; 2nd Lt. Benjamin Hall, navigator, Bayfield, Colo.; Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, loadmaster, Tecumseh, Okla.; Senior Airman Rick Merritt, flight engineer, Lynch Station, Va.; Senior Airman Michael York, loadmaster, Kennesaw, Ga.; Senior Airman Billy Ogston, crew chief, Boise City, Okla.; and Airman Thomas Stevens, loadmaster, Orlando, Fla.

The Secret Service identified the lone passenger as Aldo Frascoia, 57, a physical security specialist, of Clinton, Md.

Col. John M. Swanson, commandant of the Combat Aerial Delivery School at Little Rock Air Force Base, is presiding over a board of officers investigating the accident, Dyess officials reported.

Four Air Combat Command aircraft have crashed since mid-July, according to command officials. The overall aircraft accident rate for fiscal 1996, however, is about equal to the rate for the same period last year, command safety officials said. The command also has recorded 19 ground mishaps involving fatalities or serious injuries this fiscal year.

"Our goal is to ensure the safety of our people and the preservation of our combat capability through aggressive mishap prevention," Hawley said.

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