The Tennessee Air National Guard identified three of its members who were killed in a plane crash in Tennessee on Tuesday.
Lt. Col. Shelli Huether, Capt. Jessica Wright, and Senior Master Sgt. Scott Bumpus — all members of the 118th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group — were killed when the small aircraft they were flying in crashed in McMinnville, Tennessee, the 118th Wing wrote in a statement on Wednesday.
“Words can not begin to explain the shock, grief, pain and dismay we feel having lost three remarkable members of our Guard family,” said Col. Todd Wiles, commander of the 118th Wing. “All three were dedicated to the service of our nation. Their families are in our hearts and our prayers.”
The Associated Press reported that the airmen had just taken off from Warren County Memorial Airport in a single-engine Piper PA-28 airplane when the aircraft crashed nearby.
A witness told investigators that the plane appeared to be trying to return to the airport when it crashed, the Associated Press reported..
The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the cause of the crash.
According to the official statement, Huether was director of operations for the 118th Intelligence Support Squadron; Wright was assistant director of operations for the 118th ISS; and Bumpus was chief of current operations for the 236th Intelligence Squadron.
A unit of the Tennessee Air National Guard, the 118th Wing is equipped with the MQ-9 Reaper, a remotely-piloted aircraft that can provide close air support, interdiction and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
“Our hearts are breaking today,” the 118th Wing wrote on Facebook. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families during this very difficult time.”
Tuesday's crash is the latest in a long series of military aviation mishaps and crashes that took place this summer. On Sept. 3, a Marine Corps CH-53E helicopter was forced to make a precautionary emergency landing after catching fire mid-flight over North Carolina.
In August, two Army special operations soldiers, Staff Sgt. Vincent P. Marketta and Sgt. Tyler M. Shelton, were killed when the Black Hawk helicopter they were flying in crashed during a training mission over San Clemente Island, California.
In June, a Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed into the Philippine Sea. The two aviators aboard ejected and were rescued.
Meanwhile, the Air Force suffered seven mishaps from May to July, two of which were fatal.
1st Lt. David Schmitz was killed when his F-16CM crashed during a June 30 training flight near Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina; and 1st Lt. Kenneth Allen died when his F-15C went down in the North Sea on June 15.