20-year-old Marine from New Jersey among 16 killed in Mississippi military plane crash
A military plane crashed into a soybean field in Mississippi on Monday.
A New Jersey Marine who dreamed of joining the military long before he graduated from Colts Neck High School in 2015 was among the 16 service members killed in Monday’s horrific military plane crash.
Crewmaster Dan Baldassare, 20, died when the KC-130 Hercules tanker he was riding in with 14 other Marines and one Navy sailor spiraled into a soybean field in the Mississippi Delta, killing everyone aboard, a relative confirmed to the Daily News.
Baldassare regularly posted about his passion for the armed services on social media throughout high school.
In one haunting post from May 2012, he shared a photo of a C-130 Hercules on a runway in Iraq.
"He was a patriot, and all he wanted to do was serve our country. Everyone had a lot of respect for Dan," friend Ryan McGowan told PIX11 News.
"Dan told us in about middle school that he wanted to become a Marine," McGowan said, adding that they later played football together in high school.
"He actually would bring military gloves to football practice and play with them," he recalled.
Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, the commanding general of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, said Wednesday that nine of the Marines killed in the crash were part of the Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron (VMGR) 452 based at the Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y.
He said the aircraft was transporting service members from North Carolina to California and Arizona when it dropped out of radar contact at 5 p.m. Eastern time.
A short time later, large plumes of smoke were discovered along with two large impact areas, he said.
"Indications are something went wrong at cruise altitude," he said. "There is a large debris path."
Six of the Marines on the doomed plane were from Camp Lejeune, he said.
Officials said they were waiting to release the names of those killed until 24 hours after all next of kin had been notified.
Sgt. Julian Kevianne, 31, was one of the Marines from Newburgh.
"We don’t have any words right now. We’re hurting," sister Tania Kevianne, 27, told The News. "He was the best man."
Kevianne was a flight engineer who lived with his wife Sherry Jennings-Kevianne in New Windsor, N.Y.
"I love you bro I miss you wanna just see you one more time," his brother Carlo Kevianne wrote on Facebook.
Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson of Vermont and Staff Sgt. Joshua Snowden of Texas were also among the dead, according to reports.
Johnson graduated from Colchester High School in 1989 and Johnson State College five years later, his dad told WCAX.
"He was a very gentle person. He loved the outdoors," dad Kevin Johnson said. "He was looking forward to retirement next year. He said it was time to move on and let some of the other kids take over."
He said Johnson renewed his vows with his wife last September.
"He had a great sense of humor. He was very kind to people, his mother and other family members," his dad said.
The grieving dad said his son considered his work with the Marine Corps the best job in the world.
"He loved it, he loved to fly," Kevin Johnson said.
Snowden, 31, was a flight engineer on the KC-130 aircraft that went down, his family told NBC 5 in Dallas.