Air Guard tanker crashes in Germany


KC-135 Stratotanker Tanker Goes Down  

A Washington Air National Guard KC-135 tanker assigned to 141st Air Refueling Wing here crashed Jan. 13 while landing at Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany. The four crewmembers on board were killed. "This is a tragic loss," said Col. James R. Wynne, 141st commander. "The Guard is such a close-knit extended family that this will certainly send a wave of grief throughout the unit. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families." The names of the crew members are Maj. David W. Fite, aircraft commander; Capt. Kenneth M. Thiele, co-pilot; Maj. Matthew F. Laiho, navigator; and Tech. Sgt. Richard D. Visintainer, boom operator. Fite resided in Bellevue, Wash., and the other crewmembers were from Spokane.

The aircraft was on a routine refueling mission as part of a NATO exercise when it crashed. The cause of the accident is unknown at this time. A team from Spangdahlem AB, Germany, will investigate the crash. The 141st ARW deployed 29 people and two aircraft to Geilenkirchen to participate in a normal rotation supporting the NATO mission. They left Jan. 3 and were scheduled to return Jan. 15. The Washington Air National Guard supports this mission once or twice a year as needed.

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