WASHINGTON -- A military plane carrying a Secret Service agent and an Air Force crew of eight crashed into a mountain minutes after taking off from President Clinton's Wyoming retreat late Saturday night, killing everyone on board, officials said.
The C-130 aircraft was carrying the Secret Service agent and an automobile used by security officers in presidential motorcades. It was bound from Jackson Hole, Wyo., where Clinton spent his holiday, to New York, where he was to attend a 50th birthday party last night.
The Secret Service identified the agent as physical security specialist Aldo E. Frascoia, 57, of Clinton, MD., a 16-year-veteran assigned to the technical security division.
Members of the division are not part of the immediate detail of Secret Service agents that accompany the president wherever he goes, but they provide technical support to back up the agents, Secret Service spokesman Michael Tarr said.
They usually travel with the advance team that prepares the way for the president, installing telephones and base radio communications, Tarr said.
An expert in electronics and communications, Frascoia was on the plane with "an assortment of equipment" that was to have been used during the president's trip to New York.
Frascoia is survived by his wife and three sons, one of whom is a Secret Service officer with the uniform division in Washington.
Family members had few comments. "My mother is going through tough times," one son said. "We really can't comment."
The Air Force plane took off from the Jackson Hole airport about 10: 45 p.m. Saturday, according to state and local officials in Wyoming and an Air Force spokesman in Texas, where the crew of the plane was based.
About three minutes later, after flying about 15 miles southeast and reaching an altitude of about 10,000 feet, the C-130 slammed into the side of Sheep Mountain. It exploded in a fireball visible in Teton Village, a resort town 20 miles away. The crash site is about 1,000 feet below the 11,300-foot summit.
A party of 28 searchers set out for the remote site on foot and on horseback a few hours later. But the impact of the explosion, with the plane hitting the mountain above the timberline at 200 miles an hour or more was so severe that they found little more than smoldering fragments.
The C-130 has been considered an unusually safe aircraft, a reliable workhorse nicknamed the Hercules. But this crash was the third fatal one involving a C-130 in the past 15 months.
Four weeks ago, a C-130 flown by the Belgian air force crashed in the Netherlands, killing 32 people. And in May 1995, a C-130 carrying six Air Force reservists went down in southern Idaho after an engine caught fire, killing all aboard.
Saturday night's crash was also the third time in the past 16 months that an Air Force plane has carried U.S. government officials to their death.
In April 1995, an Air Force C-21, a military version of the Learjet executive aircraft, crashed in Alabama and killed Clark G. Fiester, an assistant Air Force secretary.
A year later, two Air Force pilots trying to land their military Boeing 737 at Dubrovnik, Croatia, flew straight into the highest peak for miles around, killing all 35 people aboard, including Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown.
At the White House, shortly before departing for New York, Clinton said the deaths of the Secret Service agent and the Air Force crew members were "especially painful to us because they worked for me and did an invaluable service, and I am very sad about it."
The president and his family had left Wyoming for Washington a few hours before the crash.
Government officials withheld the names of the C-130's crew members, who were based at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, because not all of their families had been notified as of yesterday evening.
Frascoia was the 22nd Secret Service agent killed while on duty since the service was formed after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
Pub Date: 8/19/96