Marine from Callaway County identified as victim in plane crash

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CALLAWAY COUNTY - A mid-Missouri Marine has been identified as one of the victims in a military plane crash in Mississippi on Monday.

Sergeant Talon Leach, 27, and 15 others died when the KC-130 transport plane crashed. All but one were U.S. Marines; the 16th victim was a Navy corpsman.

Leach was aboard a KC-130 refueling tanker flying from a Marine installation at Cherry Point, North Carolina to a naval air field in El Centro, California when it crashed into a farm field in Mississippi.

A Fulton-area native, Leach went to North Callaway High School.

Those who knew him praised him for his service. Christine Kleindienst, a neighbor to the Leach family, “considered him a hero for going into the military.”

His former youth and music leader at his church, Cathy Woodson, praised him for the type of man he was. 

“And he was a bright and fun and engaging young man. He was always the first to volunteer to help out with any projects or to be apart of things, and he was so kind to everyone, unless they didn’t deserve it in his opinion," said Woodson. 

"I guess we all feel like these things happen to kids far away or to families far away, they’re never close by, very rarely people you know for sure and to have one this close and him to be apart of our lives growing up on so many occasions, you just don’t think its ever going to happen to you, and I know for sure this family was so proud of him and all of the things he had achieved," said Woodson.

Leach was a decorated Marine with awards including 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.

Family members said they are not ready to talk at this time. Leach is survived by his parents, two sisters and widow.

According to a news release from the Marines Corps, Leach had been deployed as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, a campaign to remove the threat posed by ISIS terrorists.

“I just know that he carried those qualities with him as he went into the service then and served our country, and I couldn’t be prouder of him and more thankful for him," said Woodson. 

The cause of the crash is unknown at this time. Air Force mortuary personnel have collected the remains from the crash and will move them to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for processing.