Bend airman, 3 others killed in military plane crash in Africa

Bend airman, 3 others killed in military plane crash in Africa
1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, of Bend, Oregon, was one of four airmen killed in a military plane crash in Africa. (Photo courtesy: Katie Skipworth)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — An airman from Bend was one of four Americans killed when their reconnaissance plane crashed 6 milefrom the only U.S. base in Africa.

The plane was returning from a mission in support of the war in Afghanistan, the military said Monday.

The four killed in the crash included: 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, of Bend, Oregon, with the 34th Special Operations Squadron; Capt. Ryan P. Hall, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the 319th Special Operations Squadron; Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 29, of Newnan, Georgia, with the 34th Special Operations Squadron; and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, with the 25th Intelligence Squadron.

The statement said that the crash occurred at about 8 p.m. Saturday in Djibouti. U.S. personnel from Camp Lemonnier in the tiny Horn of Africa nation responded to the scene.

Specialist Ryan Whitney of the 1st Special Operations Wing said that initial indications are that the plane did not crash because of hostile fire.

The plane was conducting an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, he said. A statement from U.S. Africa Command called it a "routine" flight.

Amy Oliver, public affairs director of the Air Force 1st Special Operations Wing, said the single-engine, fixed-wing U-28A was returning from a mission in support of the Afghanistan war.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. Camp Lemonnier lies only miles from the border with Somalia.

Hall was a U-28 pilot with more than 1,300 combat flight hours. He was assigned to the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

___

Associated Press reporter Suzanne Gamboa in Washington contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press