Among the 16 military members who died when a Marine Corps plane crashed in Mississippi Monday was a native of Callaway County.
Sgt. Talon Leach, 27 — who grew up in the Fulton area — was aboard the plane when it went down in LeFlore County, Mississippi on Monday afternoon, an official United States Marine Corps release confirmed Friday.
"He was such an amazing person," childhood friend Conner Louise said. "He enjoyed his friends and music more then anything in the world. He always introduce me to new music and the meaning behind it."
Louise said Leach, a graduate of North Callaway High School, loved spending time at the Fulton skate park and always tried to make his friends happy.
Callaway County Eastern District Commissioner Randy Kleindienst said his son and Leach went to North Callaway schools together.
"Our heart and our prayers go out to him and his family," Kleindienst said. "(Leach) was a good kid."
Kleindienst commended Leach's willingness to serve his country, as did State Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit.
"You can't ask anything more of a service member than to give your life," Fitzwater said. "We're heartbroken to hear about the news of the loss of this young man."
Locals are already springing into action to support Leach's family.
"We're trying to help the family in any way we can," Larry Underwood, a spokesman for Fulton VFW Post 2657, said. "There's a lot of people in North Callaway and Calwood who knew him, and they all said he was a good guy."
Leach's family could not be immediately reached for comment.
Leach was a critical skills operator with the Second Raider Battalion, the Marine Corps release said. He was deployed between December 2015 and July 2016 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. military operation against ISIS.
His awards and decorations included the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, two Marine Corps Good Conduct Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation and three Certificates of Appreciation.
The plane, a KC-130 refueling tanker, was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, according to an Associated Press report. It was flying from a Marine installation at Cherry Point, North Carolina, to a naval air field at El Centro, California.
"Something went wrong at cruise altitude," Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James of the Marine Forces Reserve said during a live Facebook press conference.
Another military official told the AP no foul play was suspected, though an exact cause has not yet been determined.
All passengers, including 15 Marines and one Navy Corpsman, perished in the crash.
Memorial services are being planned.