Three National Guard members dead in plane crash during off-duty flight

Three National Guard members who were spending a day off together this week died when their small plane crashed near a Tennessee airport, officials said.

Lt. Col. Shelli Huether, Capt. Jessica Wright, and Senior Master Sgt. Scott Bumpus were all aboard a single-engine Piper PA-28 airplane that crashed Tuesday near Warren County Memorial Airport in McMinnville.

The plane took off from the airport and witnesses said it appeared to be trying to return when it crashed in a nearby field, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson said.

The trio were all members of the 118th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group and were having fun on a scheduled day off, according to Maj. Danielle Parton, a spokeswoman for the 118th Wing. It was not immediately clear who was flying the plane.

“Words cannot begin to explain the shock, grief, pain and dismay we feel having lost three remarkable members of our Guard family,” said Col. Todd Wiles, commander of the 118th Wing.

“All three were dedicated to the service of our nation.”

Heuther was director of operations for the 118th Intelligence Support Squadron, and Wright was her assistant director, while Bumpus was chief of current operations for the 236th Intelligence Squadron, Parton said.

All three lived in Middle Tennessee and leave behind children as well as spouses, two of whom are also in the 118th Wing, Wiles told WKRN.

“The loss of those three … it’s going to leave an empty space and a lot of our hearts,” Wiles told the station.

The plane is registered to the nearby Lebanon Flying Club, WTVF said. Nobody there responded to the station’s messages for comment.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the cause of the crash.

With Post wires

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