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Officials identify airmen killed in B-52 crash

Staff and wire reports
Posted : Thursday Jul 24, 2008 14:49:13 EDT

Officials at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., have announced the names of the six B-52 crew members killed when their Stratofortress crashed Monday off the coast of Guam.

Five were deployed to Guam from Barksdale’s 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron:

* Maj. Christopher M. Cooper, 33, aircraft commander.

* Maj. Brent D. Williams, 37, navigator.

* Capt. Michael K. Dodson, 31, co-pilot.

* 1st Lt. Joshua D. Shepherd, 26, navigator.

* 1st Lt. Robert D. Gerren, 32, electronic warfare officer.

The sixth crew member, Col. George Martin was deputy commander of 36th Medical Group at Andersen Air Force Base.

All were declared deceased at 10 p.m. Central Standard Time on Tuesday.

“Losing this bomber crew has been a tragedy felt by everyone here and across the Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Doug Owens, 36th Wing commander, in an Andersen press release. “Our deepest sympathies and prayers are with the families of these airmen as we continue to support them during this difficult time.”

Search teams recovered two bodies and other remains while searching 7,000 square miles of water. Air Force forensic analysis specialists are working toward identifying the additional recovered remains.

The bomber went down about 9:45 a.m. Monday local time about 35 miles northwest of Guam while on a training mission that was to include a flyover as part of a Liberation Day celebration on the island. Officials haven’t said if there was any indication from the crew that the eight-engine bomber — tail number 60-053 — was in trouble.

The B-52H can carry a crew of up to six people and has ejection seats for all crew positions.

The B-52H bomber, flying since 1952 and part of the Air Force arsenal since 1955, is a remarkably robust aircraft.

The last crash of the type was on June 24, 1994, when a bomber practicing for an air show at Fairchild Air Force Base, near Spokane, Wash., crashed, killing all four crew members. The cause of that crash was determined to be recklessness on the part of the pilot, who banked the airplane too steeply at too low an altitude.

Before that, the last B-52H to crash was in early February 1991, when an airplane returning from an Operation Desert Storm mission crashed into the Indian Ocean 15 miles north of Diego Garcia. The cause of that crash, which killed three of the six crew members, was determined to have been an electrical failure.

The effort is covering a 900-square-mile area with two U.S. Coast Guard vessels and the destroyer John S. McCain. Additionally, Navy MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 and Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles from the 389th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron joined a Navy P-3 Orion from Kadena Air Base, Japan. Guam Police and Fire Department rescue units also joined the search.

Currently, most of the B-52Hs deployed to Guam are from the Barksdale 20th Bomb Squadron, said Col. Robert Wheeler, commander of Barksdale’s 2nd Bomb Wing. Wheeler added that some deployed personnel are from the 96th Bomb Squadron and the Reserve’s 917th Wing, so he could not definitively say which squadron the plane and aircrew were from.

As with all major Air Force crashes, the B-52H accident will be scrutinized by separate safety and accident investigation boards.

DISCUSS: The incident and investigation

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Maj. Christopher M. Cooper, 33, aircraft commander.

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