LOS ANGELES (AP) – Three of the 15 Marines and a Navy sailor who were killed in a military plane crash earlier this week in Mississippi were from Southern California.
The KC-130 air tanker was carrying members of an elite Marine special operations unit cross-country for training in Arizona when it went down Monday afternoon in the Mississippi Delta. The fiery crash scattered wreckage for miles around and sent a pillar of black smoke rising over the countryside.
Here is a brief portrait of each of the three Southern California victims:
Sgt. Chad Jenson from Redondo Beach was remembered by high school teammates as a selfless center on a championship high school football team whose commitment ultimately powered him into the Marines’ elite 2nd Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune.
Kyle Demarco, the quarterback for the Mira Costa High School championship team, told the Daily Breeze that he broke into tears when he learned Jenson had died.
“If I have a kid one day, I want him to have the type of character that Chad did,” Demarco said.
Chuck Arrasmith, Jenson’s offensive line coach in high school, remained close to him after he signed up for the Marines in 2010. He said Jenson didn’t “see a ceiling in his life. He just keeps breaking through and achieving more.”
Arrasmith said it was that relentless drive that powered his preparation to join the special forces. On leave, Jenson filled a backpack with bricks, strapped it to his back and ran up and down the stairs at school. Coaches found him in the school’s pool, trying to turn himself into a swimmer.
“He knew going into that that this was going to be an extreme challenge,” Arrasmith said.
Capt. Sean Elliott, one of the plane’s pilots, grew up in San Diego had a longtime love affair with the C-130. His father, John Elliott, tells San Diego’s Union-Tribune that his son used to take a model C-130 loaded with toy soldiers to bed when he was 4 years old.
“He slept with it like you would a teddy bear,” John Elliott said. “A big plane, in the bed. A silly plastic thing, with the toy soldiers inside. It went to bed with him every night for quite a long time.”
His mother, Cynthia Elliott, said her son was “enamored” with aircraft and the military at least since attending a childhood air show.
A prep standout in tennis, the 6-foot 2-inch Elliott was renowned for a booming serve. His younger brother Erik went pro, but Sean Elliott went to officers’ school, graduating from the University of California, Davis.
“He was always looking out for others, starting with me but then continuing to his fraternity brothers and his Marines,” Erik Elliott said.
Stationed at Stewart, Elliott got his Marine Corps call sign “Puffin” because he refused to hunt the nesting and defenseless birds during a stopover in Iceland, his father said.
Staff Sgt. Robert Cox, a critical skills operator from Ventura County was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the Marines said in a news release Friday. Cox joined the Marines in 2007 and had served four tours of duty overseas.
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