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Names of service members killed in military plane crash will be revealed

Smoke and flames rise from a military plane that crashed in a farm field, in Itta Bena, Miss., killing at least 16. (WLBT-TV via AP)

ITTA BENA, Miss. - Seven of the 16 service members killed in the military transport plane in Mississippi on Monday were from Camp Lejeune, according to Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

In a Facebook post, MARSOC said "the aircraft was transporting six Marines and one Navy sailor from Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command and their associated equipment for routine small unit pre-deployment training at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. All seven were from the Camp Lejeune-based 2d Marine Raider Battalion."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire MARSOC family at this time," said the MARSOC chief of staff in a story by The Defense Video Imagery Distribution System. "The incredible demands of this dangerous and demanding calling forge some of the tightest unit and family bonds found in the U.S. military. This loss impacts us all."

Six Marines and one sailor from MARSOC's 2nd Marine Raider Bn were aboard the Marine #C130 that crashed in Miss. Heartbreaking tragedy. 1/2

-- MARSOC (@MARSOCofficial) July 11, 2017

The MARSOC family is providing full measure of support & assistance to the families and teammates of our Raiders. IDs w/held pend. NOK. 2/2

-- MARSOC (@MARSOCofficial) July 11, 2017

No names of those killed have been released pending notification of next of kin. Maj. Nick Mannweiler, Public Affairs Officer with MARSOC said all 16 names are expected to be released Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. EDT at a press conference at the Marine Forces Reserve Headquarters in New Orleans.

MARSOC will also hold a press conference at 5:30 at the Marine Corp Base Stone Bay in Onslow County. The names, photos and information on the seven MARSOC members killed will be released.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement Tuesday about the crash and the victims involved.

"Today we learned that among the 16 individuals killed in yesterday's plane crash in Mississippi, seven were North Carolina Marine Raiders based right here at Camp Lejeune. Our hearts go out to the families of those killed, as well as the Marines they served alongside. Danger and sacrifice are inherent to the jobs carried out by our service members, and this tragedy is a reminder that they serve at home and abroad every minute of every day. Kristen and I, along with millions of North Carolinians and Americans, honor the service and sacrifice of these brave individuals and their families."

Monday's incident is the deadliest Marine crash - in the U.S. or abroad - since 2005 when a transport helicopter went down during a sandstorm in Iraq. That crash killed 30 Marines and a sailor. The most recent incident happened when seven MARSOC Marines were killed in 2015 in a training accident off the coast of Florida.

Patriot Guard David Weeks plays taps near the Mississippi plane crash honoring the 16 Marine service members killed.

Cooper's office ordered all flags at state facilities to be lowered to half-staff from sunup to sundown on Wednesday in tribute to the 16 who died.

The Marine Corps KC-130 aircraft crashed in Leflore County, Mississippi -- located about 85 miles north of Jackson -- at around 4 p.m. local time, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. In a press release Tuesday morning, The Marine Forces Reserve identified the aircraft as a KC-130T from the Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron (VMGR) 452, Marine Air Group-49, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve.

Mannweiler said the Marine Forces Reserve KC-130 left base in Newburgh, N.Y. and headed to MCAS Cherry Point. There they picked up the MARSOC members and their equipment, which included their personal items, weapons, small arms and ammunition. The plane then left Cherry Point for MCAS Yuma in Yuma, Ariz. The MARSOC members were going to Yuma for training during the month of July. They were the second half of a 14-member team that would be training together. The first seven had left prior and arrived in Yuma safely. This training was part of pre-deployment training for a special operation corps mission.

Freedom Fountain in Jacksonville in mourning status.

No Cherry Point Marines were on the KC-130, according to Mike Barton, Cherry Point Director, Joint Public Affairs Office. Marine Corps Maj. Andrew Aranda, speaking during a press conference Tuesday morning, said at the time many of the Marines were from a unit based in Newburgh, New York with active duty and reserve members.

MFR said due to having small arms ammunition and personal weapons onboard, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team is at the scene as a precautionary measure.

Father of Marine killed: He loved to fly

Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson was from Vermont. His father told WCAX and CNN that his son loved his job.

"He thought it was one of the best jobs in the Marine Corps. He really loved flying. He loved going different places," Kevin Johnson said of his son, who spent 23 years in the Marines and was a loadmaster.

Brendan Johnson, 45, planned to retire next year, after a career that took him to Europe, Africa, South Asia and the Pacific, including deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

"He was looking forward to retiring, he said it's time to let the younger kids do this," his father said.

Loud 'cracking' before crash

The plane vanished from air traffic control radar somewhere over Mississippi, the statement continued.

MFR said that cause of the crash is still unknown, and the incident is currently under investigation.

"While the details of the incident are being investigated, our focus remains on providing the necessary resources and support to the family and friends of these service members as they go through this extremely difficult time," the statement from the Marine Forces Reserve said. "More information will be released as it becomes available."

Witnesses described hearing a loud "crackling" noise around the time of the plane crash.

Andy Jones, a local farmer, said he heard a loud boom and described watching the aircraft twirling through the air before falling down.

"[The plane] was spinning down," Jones told The Associated Press late Monday.

Speaking at a press conference late Monday, Leflore County Emergency Management Director Fred Randle also offered no explanation for the crash and stressed that the situation was still under investigation.

The FBI was also on the scene Monday's presser, and Randle said that the EMA would address the public about the crash again Tuesday.

The Marine Corps, which said it operated the plane, originally announced the crash via Twitter at about 8:30 p.m. ET.

"A USMC KC-130 experienced a mishap the evening of July 10," said Capt. Sarah Burns, a Marine Corps spokesperson said earlier. "Further information will be passed as available."

President Donald Trump tweeted about the crash, calling it "heartbreaking."

"Marine Plane crash in Mississippi is heartbreaking. Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all!" Trump wrote.

The Associated Press, CNN and ABC News contributed to this report.

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