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Marines' plane crashes in Pakistan

Thursday, January 10, 2002

A U.S. military tanker plane crashed into a mountain in Pakistan, killing seven Marines, the Pentagon said.

One of the seven identified, Marine Capt. Daniel Gardner McCollum, was the son-in-law of Jenny and Bill Harkey of Cape Girardeau. The Harkeys' daughter, Jennifer, married McCollum last May. She lives in San Diego, Calif.

Bill Harkey, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, said his daughter was notified by Marine officials that her husband's plane had gone down.

"It's at times like this you realize that freedom is not free," Harkey said.

Jennifer McCollum is pregnant with the couple's first child.

Harkey said his son-in-law was eager to serve in Afghanistan. "He knew that was where he needed to be."

He said McCollum was "as fine a man as I could have hoped my daughter would marry."

Pentagon officials said there said there were no signs that the plane, a KC-130 used for in-flight refueling or hauling cargo, was brought down by hostile action.

The crash occurred late Wednesday night local time, and a search-and-rescue mission continued into the next morning. The Pentagon identified the dead Marines shortly before midnight in Washington.

The plane crashed as it approached a military airfield called Shamsi in southwestern Pakistan. That air base is about 180 miles southwest of the Pakistani city of Quetta, according to U.S. Central Command.

Witnesses reported seeing flames shooting from the plane before it slammed into the mountain.

A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, Maj. Randy Sandoz, said Marines and Pakistanis have approached the crash site, but no bodies had been recovered as of late Wednesday.

"We made it to the crash site on foot," Sandoz said. "But they were able to remain there. It is a very steep grade and they were unable to get footing. The site is secure."

The Pentagon identified the seven Marines who were killed as: The pilot, Capt. Matthew W. Bancroft, 29, of Shasta, Calif.; co-pilot Capt. Daniel G. McCollum, 29, of Richland, S.C.; Gunnery Sgt. Stephen L. Bryson, 35, of Montgomery, Ala.; Staff Sgt. Scott N. Germosen, 37, of New York City; Sgt. Nathan P. Hays, 21, of Lincoln, Wash., Lance Cpl. Bryan P. Bertrand, 23, of Coos, Ore.; and Sgt. Jeannette L. Winters, 25, of Du Page, Ill. All were based at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, Calif.

Winters is the first woman among U.S. forces killed in Afghanistan campaign.

Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations in Pakistan and the surrounding region, said the four-engine KC-130 Hercules took off from Jacobabad, Pakistan, and was making multiple stops.

President Bush said the crash was a reminder of "how serious the times are today."

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the soldiers," Bush said at a fund-raiser for the re-election of his brother Jeb as governor of Florida. "But I want to remind them that the cause that we are now engaged in is just and noble. The cause is freedom and this nation will not rest until we've achieved our objective."

In a brief exchange with reporters at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he did not know the circumstances of the crash or whether the KC-130 was on a refueling mission.

President Bush said the crash was a reminder of "how serious the times are today."

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the soldiers," Bush said at a fund raiser for the re-election of his brother Jeb as governor of Florida. "But I want to remind them that the cause that we are now engaged in is just and noble. The cause is freedom and this nation will not rest until we've achieved our objective."

In a brief exchange with reporters at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld said he did not know the circumstances of the crash or whether the KC-130 was on a refueling mission.

"I'm going to wait for the investigation to be completed," he said. "We've got some folks heading up there now.

"It is a tough, dangerous business over there," he added. "They're doing difficult things and they're doing them darned well, and it just breaks your heart."

A journalist, Saeed Malangzai, who lives about 40 miles from the crash site, said the plane went down in mountains in southern Balochistan province.


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