An Air Force C-5A Galaxy cargo jet supporting the military operation in the Middle East crashed early today during takeoff from Ramstein Air Base in West Germany, killing at least 11 servicemen aboard and injuring four others, according to Air Force officials.
A Ramstein Air Base spokesman, Chief Master Sgt. David Smith, said authorities have been unable to account for two other servicemen who were aboard the mammoth cargo jet when it crashed into a field about a quarter-mile from the end of the Ramstein runway.
Smith said authorities also have not determined the identities of either the crash victims or survivors. He said there have been no reports so far of any civilian casualties.
The C-5A crashed at 12:50 a.m. West German time, as it was taking off for a short flight to Rhein-Main Air Base, about 80 miles to the north of Ramstein.
Although the plane came from the 60th Military Airlift Wing based at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, it was being flown by a crew from the 433rd Military Airlift Wing at Kelly Air Force Base near San Antonio, Tex., the Air Force said.
At Kelly, base spokeswoman Maj. Donna Pastor said 10 reservists with the base’s 433rd Military Airlift Wing were aboard the plane, the Associated Press reported. The 433rd had not been called to active duty, but some reservists were voluntarily participating in the Middle East military buildup dubbed Operation Desert Shield after arranging time off from their civilian jobs.
Smith said the plane was carrying 17 crew members and passengers, along with a cargo of medical supplies, dry rations, cargo handling equipment and maintenance equipment.
He said authorities have not determined the cause of the crash. A board of officers has been appointed to investigate.
The C-5A is the Air Force’s largest transport plane, and it has been used extensively to ferry supplies and equipment to the Mideast during the current buildup.
There had been two earlier casualties in Operation Desert Shield:
Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel M. Jones, a 19-year-old electrician’s mate, died Aug. 22 in an electrical accident aboard the warship Antietam.
Air Force Staff Sgt. John Campisi, 30, of West Covina was accidentally struck and killed Aug. 12 by a military truck on a darkened aircraft runway in Saudi Arabia.