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Daily News (New York) January 10, 2002



Seven Marines, including a sergeant from Queens, died last night when their KC-130 tanker crashed into a mountainside as it approached an airstrip in southwestern Pakistan, the Pentagon said.

The deaths were the biggest one-day loss for U.S. forces in the war on terrorism.

Support for terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden is widespread in the region, but there were no indications the slow, turboprop plane was shot down, U.S. officials said.

However, witnesses reported seeing flames coming from the plane before the crash. A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command said Marines and Pakistanis had gotten near the crash site, but no bodies had been recovered as of late last night.

The Pentagon identified the dead Marines as Capt. Matthew Bancroft, 29, of Shasta, Calif., the plane's pilot; Capt. Daniel McCollum 29, of Richland, S.C., the co-pilot; Gunnery Sgt. Stephen Bryson, 35, of Montgomery Ala.; Staff Sgt. Scott Germosen, 37, of Queens; Sgt. Nathan Hays, 21, of Lincoln, Wash.; Lance Cpl. Bryan Bertrand, 23, of Coos Bay, Ore., and Sgt. Jeannette Winters, 25, of Du Page, Ill.

Winters is the first American woman killed in the war against terrorism.

They were assigned to the Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, based in Miramar, Calif.

Bertrand could have been home about a month ago, but he volunteered for another tour of duty, said his father, Bruce.

"He didn't want to be on the sidelines," the father said from his Coos Bay home. "He loved what he was doing." 'It just breaks your heart' The workhorse KC-130R, used mostly by the Marines to refuel helicopters, was on a multistop mission that originated at the Pakistani military base at Jacobabad, Hughes said.

It was attempting to land at the high-security airstrip at Shamsi, about 50 miles from the Afghan border.

"It just breaks your heart," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said at the Pentagon. "It is a tough, dangerous business over there, and they are doing difficult things, and they are doing them darned well."

Hughes refused to speculate about the cause of the crash.

But military pilots have used steep descents when landing at airstrips like Shamsi's to cut the risk of being hit by ground fire.

Reporters traveling with Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Powell in the region have told of stomach-churning dives to their destinations.

The crash was one of two in the region involving U.S. military aircraft yesterday.

In the other, the landing gear of an S-3B Viking refueling plane collapsed as it touched down on the carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea.

The jet made a harrowing skid across the deck - showering it with sparks - before arresting gear kept it from falling overboard.

There were no injuries, the ship's spokesman said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) visited the Roosevelt earlier yesterday and shouted, "Next up: Baghdad!" from the carrier's bridge.

McCain has been pushing the Pentagon to make Iraq the next target in the war on terrorism.

Pentagon officials and Powell have cautioned against focusing on Baghdad, but McCain said yesterday Iraq poses "a clear and present danger" to the U.S.

In Afghanistan, U.S. war planes continued to pound a former Al Qaeda training camp near Khost.

The government of interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai also acknowledged that several top Taliban officials had surrendered but had been released by officials in the Kandahar region, a move that angered the U.S.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said those released included Noorudin Turabi, the one-eyed, one-legged Taliban justice minister who formed the religious police force that enforced the regime's repressive version of Islamic law.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. wanted custody of people of Turabi's rank. "We would expect that to be the case with these individuals," Boucher said.

Graphic: KC-130 TANKER

Lockheed KC-130 tanker/transport planes like the one that went down yesterday in southwestern Pakistan have been workhorses for the U.S. military since they were put into service in 1962.
Some specifications:
Primary functions: In-flight refueling, tactical transport
Power plant: Four 4,910-horsepower engines
Length: 97 feet, 9 inches
Height: 38 feet, 4 inches
Wing span: 132 feet, 7 inches
Ceiling: 30,000 feet
Speed: 362 mph
Crew of six: Two pilots, one navigator/systems operator,
one flight engineer, one first mechanic, one loadmaster
Cost: $37 million
Tanker capabilities: 1,150 miles carrying 45,000 pounds
Cargo capabilities: 3,306 miles with 38,258 pounds of cargo,
92 combat troops, 64 paratroopers or 74 litters
Source: GlobalSecurity.org

Copyright 2002 Daily News, L.P.