Propulsion engineer charged with obstructing investigation into fatal crash of US military aircraft in 2017


OXFORD, Mississippi (AP) — A former engineer at a U.S. military air logistics center has been charged with making false statements and obstruction of justice as part of the criminal investigation into the 2017 crash of a military plane in Mississippi that killed all 16 soldiers on board, prosecutors said Wednesday.

James Michael Fisher, 67, was arrested Tuesday after a grand jury in a federal court in northern Mississippi indicted him, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner.

The press release said Fisher is a former senior propulsion engineer at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex in Warner Robins, Georgia. Fisher, who now lives in Portugal, initially appeared in court in Jacksonville, Florida.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in northern Mississippi said she had no information Wednesday on whether Fisher was represented by an attorney.

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Fifteen Marines and a Navy medic were killed on July 10, 2017, when the Marine Corps KC-130T transport aircraft broke into pieces in the sky and crashed into a soybean field near Itta Bena, Mississippi.

The plane was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, and was carrying Marine special forces from North Carolina to Arizona for training. The crash was the Marines’ worst air disaster since 2005, when a transport helicopter crashed during a sandstorm in Iraq, killing 30 Marines and one sailor.

The indictment alleges Fisher knowingly withheld design documents and made false statements to investigators about his design decisions that may have been related to the crash, Joyner’s press release said.

Fisher faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of two counts of false testimony and two counts of obstruction of justice.

Three agencies investigating the crash announced Fisher’s arrest along with federal prosecutors: the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

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