Local News

KC-135 crashes in Kyrgyzstan

SPOKANE, Wash. - The fate of three airmen is unknown after a KC-135 Stratotanker crashed in a remote region of Kyrgyzstan Friday.

The plane was serving with the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, which is based at the Transit Center at Manas, near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The Manas transit center is a U.S. airbase that serves as a supply hub for American forces in Afghanistan and is located at the Manas airport.

Fairchild Air Force Base has KC-135s deployed to Manas, where they are supporting the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing. While the Air Force has not confirmed where the KC-135 and its air crew are based out of here in the United States, The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that U.S. Rep. CW Bill Young confirmed the aircraft involved was based out of McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, KS.

McConnell Air Force Base is home to the 22nd Air Refueling Wing.

While the Tampa Bay Times is reporting the aircraft belongs the 22nd ARW, it is not known yet if the air crew aboard the aircraft were from McConnell Air Force Base.

On McConnell Air Force Base's Facebook page, officials did not acknowledge whether or not the aircraft was from the airbase near Wichita in a statement posted Friday morning:

"We are saddened to report that a KC-135 assigned to the Transit Center at Manas crashed today in Northern Kyrgyzstan. We ask that you keep the crew and their families affected by this tragedy in your thoughts and prayers. The accident is under investigation, and we will continue to provide more information as it becomes available."

Earlier in the day a Fairchild spokesman confirmed Fairchild planes and air crews operate out of the Transit Center at Manas but added they did not know if the crashed plane is from Fairchild.

The plane crashed in a mountainous area between Chorgolu and Cholok-Aryk -- two villages in the Chuysky region of northern Kyrgyzstan, and a fire crew and three ambulances responded, Elmira Shyrypova, at the Kyrgyz Emergencies Ministry press office.

The transit center said investigators are determining the cause of the crash and emergency responders were on the scene

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev held an emergency meeting in connection with the crash, state media reported.

Sharshenaliev said debris from the crash was scattered over an area of about a kilometer radius. He said witnesses calling in on a hotline said they saw a parachute when the plane was falling. Others said they saw an explosion and the plane was broken in half.