A Coast Guard student aviator and a Navy instructor pilot have been identified as the two service members killed in the crash of a T-6B Texan trainer aircraft Friday in Alabama.
Ensign Morgan Garrett, of Waxhaw, North Carolina, was identified by Rear Adm. William Kelly, superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, in an email to the academy community.
In a news release early Sunday afternoon, the Navy identified the other crew member as Lt. Rhiannon Ross, 30, of Wixom, Michigan. A spokesman for Commander, Naval Air Forces said the Navy is not releasing any other information at this time.
Ross was a member of the University of Michigan’s Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps in Ann Arbor. She served three years with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 out of Norfolk, Virginia, before joining the Florida-based Training Squadron Two in 2018.
In a post Sunday on the Facebook page of Chief of Naval Air Training, the commander of Training Squadron 2, which is part of Training Wing 5 at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Florida, expressed his sorrow.
“I cannot express the devastation we all feel at this time,” wrote Cmdr. Wes Barnes, CO of the “Doerbirds.”
“I’d like to personally thank all of the support we have received from family, friends and colleagues from all over. I encourage everyone to take care of each other and the families directly affected by this tragedy as we navigate through the healing process.”
The two women were flying a routine mission out of Whiting Field when the turboprop aircraft went down in an Alabama residential neighborhood, said Cmdr. Zach Harrell, spokesman for Commander, Naval Air Forces, on Saturday.
“Their spirit, friendship, and devotion to their country will not be forgotten,” Harrell said in the news release Sunday.
Garrett graduated from the academy in New London, Connecticut, in May 2019, and majored in marine and environmental sciences, Kelly wrote. She was a regimental activities officer at the academy, and competed as a middle-distance runner in track and field.
“On behalf of the Coast Guard Academy I offer my sincerest condolences to her family, friends, classmates and shipmates,” Kelly wrote to the “CGA Community.” “She was a beloved member of the Class of 2019, was a leader of Echo Company and the Corps, and was outstanding as the Regimental Activities Officer. … She left an indelible mark on her classmates and the entire community, and she will be sorely missed by all.”
In a message to her fellow students in April 2019, less than a month before she graduated, Morgan offered them advice to be successful in the service and in life.
“Always seek out the next thing you can be doing to improve yourself, the people around you, and your unit as a whole because there is nothing good growing in stagnant water,” she wrote.
The plane crash occurred in Magnolia Springs, Alabama, an hour's drive west of Pensacola, Florida.
Navy investigators at the scene are seeking any photos or video of the aircraft in flight, WALA-TV in Mobile reported.
Photos from the scene showed smoke billowing from a home and at least two vehicles in the Gulf Coast subdivision near Foley, Alabama, where the aircraft crashed around 5 p.m. local time Friday. No one on the ground was injured.
Staff and kids at a nearby school were still on campus in an after-school program, Baldwin County Public Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler told WALA-TV, calling the crash “a little too close for comfort.”
In a particularly cruel twist, a Friday morning Facebook post from Chief of Naval Air Training, which immediately preceded a post announcing the crash, celebrated an historic achievement in naval aviation safety.
The Navy and Marine Corps ended fiscal 2020 without any aviation-related fatalities, a milestone dating back at least to when the sea service started keeping such records in 1922, the Naval Safety Center announced Monday.
Kelly apologized to the Coast Guard Academy community for being the bearer of such sad tidings.
“Please look out for one another,” he wrote, “especially those who knew Morgan well.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report