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167th crew shaken in rough ride

July 13, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Approximately 20 members of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard were injured Saturday when their plane encountered severe turbulence off the East Coast as they were returning to base in Martinsburg, a unit spokesman said.

The plane made an emergency landing at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Va., around 1 p.m., Lt. Col. Roger Sencindiver said.

None of the injuries was life-threatening, Sencindiver said. However, six of the unit's members were not expected to return to the airlift unit's base in Martinsburg today because they would not be ready to fly.

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Sencindiver said he did not know the extent of the injuries to the six.

Broken bones, head injuries and contusions were among their injuries, so they were advised not to fly yet, he said.

A flight surgeon will evaluate everyone to make sure they are OK to get on the plane, Sencindiver said.

Sencindiver would not release the names of the unit members on board the plane.

The 167th Airlift Wing was to send a plane at 8 a.m. today to Virginia Beach to pick up the other unit members, Sencindiver said. They are expected back at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport around 11 a.m.

The unit will send maintenance workers to check the plane that made the emergency landing to make sure it is safe to fly, Sencindiver said.

Thirty-nine members of the 167th Airlift Wing were on the flight from Puerto Rico, where members were stationed for four months to help resupply missions in South America and Central America, Sencindiver said.

Families members representing about 18 families had been waiting in Martinsburg on Saturday to greet their loved ones, Sencindiver said. They were appraised of the situation and family readiness volunteers called family members with updates.

Paul Green, who lives near Mercersburg, Pa., said his family had been planning a party in Frederick, Md., today for his great grandson, an Airlift unit member. Green said his wife learned of the plane problems from a news scroll on her television screen.

"We was worried about him," Green said.

Later they learned their great grandson, who lives in Frederick, had an injured wrist, Green said.

Oceana spokesman Troy Snead said unit members' injuries were "a lot of bruises, like you would get in an aircraft when you get tossed out of your seat, or something like that."

Snead said the plane hit turbulence about 60 miles south of the base and officials decided to make an emergency landing.

The plane was met by Navy medical teams and Virginia Beach emergency crews, and the injured were taken to Virginia Beach General Hospital, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and the hospital at Norfolk Naval Air Station, Snead said.

"The landing itself was routine," he said, adding that nothing appeared to be wrong with the plane, a C-130 Hercules cargo plane.

Sencindiver said approximately 35 members of the 167th Airlift Wing arrived safely in Puerto Rico on Saturday to relieve their colleagues.

About 300 of the 1,200 members of the detachment have been posted overseas supporting the U.S. war against terrorism.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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