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U.S. Military Plane Wreckage Found

September 12, 2002

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ U.S. Navy search teams found the wreckage of a military plane that crashed into the Caribbean Sea off Puerto Rico, and all three servicemen on board were believed dead, the Navy said Thursday.

Searchers spotted the wreckage at dusk Wednesday some 25 miles southeast of Puerto Rico, said Cmdr. Ernest Duplessis, a spokesman for the U.S. Second Fleet in Norfolk, Va.

Human remains were found amid the wreckage. Navy ships and helicopters continued to search Thursday for additional remains and wreckage.

The military lost radio contact with the Navy S-3B Viking jet about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday during an in-flight refueling exercise off the island of Vieques.

The $27 million plane, used for in-flight refueling and sea surveillance, had taken off from the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier off the U.S. territory’s east coast.

It was in the air for about an hour before it disappeared, Duplessis said.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, the Navy said. No severe weather was reported in the area, the weather service said.

The servicemen on the plane were identified as pilot Lt. J.G. Thomas McCombie, 25, of State College, Pa.; Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Gray, 40, of Mound, Minn.; and Lt. Cmdr. Michael Chalfant, 36, of Jacksonville, Fla.

The plane went down during exercises at the Navy’s bombing range on Vieques. The training continued Thursday.

On Aug. 7, an Air Force MC-130H transport plane crashed during a training mission in Puerto Rico. All 10 U.S. military personnel on board died.


On the Net:

S-3B Fact Sheet: http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/factfile/aircraft/air-s3b.html

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