Airmen killed in crash tragedy are named

THE county's huge American community was in mourning last night as tribute was paid to nine “warriors” tragically killed during a military exercise in Albania.

THE county's huge American community was in mourning last night as tribute was paid to nine “warriors” tragically killed during a military exercise in Albania.

Officials at RAF Mildenhall yesterday confirmed the names of the airmen who were on board the MC-130H Combat Talon II plane when it crashed last Thursday.

It brought the full horror of the tragedy - deemed the worst incident in the air base's history - to life for many who were finally able to put names and faces to their fallen friends and colleagues.

Captain Todd Bracy, 34, Captain James Cronin, 32, Captain Gil Williamson, 31, Captain Surender Kothakota, 30 and 1st Lieutenant Ray Owens, 22, all died during a training mission in a remote mountainous region of Albania, about 35-miles east of Tirana.

Their colleagues Chief Master Sergeant Lawrence Gray, 40, Technical Sergeant James Henry, 30, Technical Sergeant Glenn Lastes, 39 and Staff Sergeant Patrick Pentico, 22, also lost their lives in the crash.

Eight of the men were assigned to the 7th Special Operations Squadron, while Tech Sgt Lastes was assigned to Detachment 2 of the 25th Intelligence Operations Squadron.

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During a press briefing yesterday, Colonel Dennis Jones, 352nd Special Operations Group Commander, said the base was still trying to come to terms with the deaths of the nine men, and expressed his sympathies for the families, friends, and units involved.

He said: “As we come to terms with the void these warriors leave behind, we will support their families and honour their memory by taking their place, standing in the line of battle as our nation asks of us and serving our country to the best of our abilities.

“Our sympathies are still with the families and we are doing everything in our power to make sure they are being taken care of.

“The units involved are fully engaged in taking care of their families. The way they are taking care of things is very detailed to ensure that they have everything that they need.

“Multiple members of the unit have stopped by to sit with the families to take care of them, exactly the same as you would if it was your own family.

“If they do not want someone to stop by then we respect that, if they need more support then we give it.”

Col Jones declined to speculate on the cause of the crash, but said the military's Safety Board is now carrying out a full investigation.

“The missions we do with foreign countries are very complex,” he said. “I cannot speculate whether it (the plane) came under attack from someone in Albania, and I do not want to speculate on the cause of the accident.

“Experts have been flown out to Albania and the pieces (of the plane) are being examined where it is.

“The Safety Board now needs to look at every possible angle to rule things out and to try to get an accurate picture of what happened, to prevent accidents in the future.”

The families of the nine men have been invited to a special memorial service being held on Wednesday in their honour.

Army Brig Gen Thomas Csrnko, commander of Special Operations Command Europe, also paid his respects to the dead airmen.

“I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of these brave young airmen,” he said.

“We all share in the sorrow and pain of their loss. We will not forget their sacrifice, and we stand ready to support their families at this difficult time.”

Col Richard Devereaux, 100th Air Refuelling Wing commander, added: “RAF Mildenhall is shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of our fellow airmen.

“We appreciate the thoughts and prayers of our British and American friends as we focus on supporting the families left behind.”

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