Three members of the Tennessee Air National Guard are dead after the small plane they were in crashed not far from an airport, officials said.
The plane, a Piper PA-28, crashed in McMinnville, Tenn., near Warren County Memorial Airport around 11:40 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The agency added that a witness reported that the plane appeared to be returning to the airport, about 70 miles southeast of Nashville, when the crash occurred. The N.T.S.B. and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.
The victims, identified by the Tennessee Air National Guard as Lt. Col. Shelli Huether, 45; Capt. Jessica Wright, 38; and Senior Master Sgt. Scott Bumpus, 53, were all members of the 118th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group.
“Words cannot begin to explain the shock, grief, pain and dismay we feel having lost three remarkable members of our Guard family,” Col. Todd Wiles, commander of the 118th Wing, said in a statement. “All three were dedicated to the service of our nation. Their families are in our hearts and our prayers.”
Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee expressed his condolences on Twitter, saying he was “incredibly saddened by the sudden and tragic loss.”
According to F.A.A. records, the plane was registered to the Lebanon Flying Club, a nonprofit based at Lebanon Municipal Airport in Tennessee. The Lebanon Flying Club could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
Safety concerns related to the coronavirus prevented the N.T.S.B. from going to the crash site, but the agency said F.A.A. officials and local authorities would transport the wreckage to a secure location for an N.T.S.B. investigator to examine later.
The agency said it would release a preliminary report with more details within two weeks. A final report will take 12 to 24 months to complete, it added.