ITTA BENA, Miss. (AP) -- A military plane carrying a group of Marines crashed on Monday on the Sunflower-Leflore, Mississippi county line, killing 16, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported.
"Most of (the dead) are gonna be Marines," Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks told the Clarion-Ledger.
Banks told The Associated Press that a KC-130 military refueling tanker crashed about 85 miles (135 kilometers) north of Jackson.
Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns said in a statement that a Marine KC-130 "experienced a mishap" Monday evening but provided no further details.
Greenwood Fire Chief Marcus Banks, no relation to the sheriff, said the crash was reported about 4 p.m. CDT and debris from the plane was scattered in a radius of about 5 miles (8 kilometers). An intense fire fed by jet fuel hampered firefighters, Banks said, causing them to turn to unmanned devices in an attempt to control the flames.
"We were driven away by several high-intensity explosions," he said.
Aerial pictures taken by WLBT-TV showed the skeleton of the plane burning strongly, producing plumes of black smoke visible for miles across the flat landscape of the delta.
Austin Jones, who owns a neighboring farm, said the fire continued after sunset.
"It's burning worse now than it was early in the afternoon," said Jones. He said his son watched the plane go down while working on the farm and said it was smoking as it descended.
Officials did not release information on what caused the crash or where the flight originated.
Preliminary reports indicate the plane took off from a base in Millington, Tennessee.
"Please join Deborah and me in praying for those hurting after this tragedy," Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said in a statement. "Our men and women in uniform risk themselves every day to secure our freedom."