Updated

U.S. cargo plane firm ID's 7 killed in fiery Afghan crash

A U.S. cargo plane company has released the names of seven people killed in a crash in Afghanistan, with six from Michigan and one from Kentucky, and investigators are trying to discover why it went down right after takeoff Monday.

NATO discounts Taliban claims of responsibility for crash of plane destined for Dubai

Michael Sheets, 36, of Ypsilanti, Mich., was killed along with six other Americans in a cargo plane crash just after takeoff from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Monday. (Courtesy Sheets family/Associated Press)
A U.S. company has released the names of seven people killed in the crash of one of its cargo planes in Afghanistan, and investigators are trying to discover why it went down right after takeoff Monday.

Orlando, Fla.-based National Air Cargo says six of the seven victims killed in Monday's crash on the grounds of Bagram Air Base were from Michigan and one was from Kentucky. All were U.S. citizens.

The Boeing 747-400 was destined for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for downing the plane, but NATO said the claims were false and there was no sign of insurgent activity in the area at the time of the crash.

Maintenance crew member Timothy Garrett, 51, of Louisville, Ky., was the only non-Michigan resident killed in the crash.

The other victims were:

  • Pilots Brad Hasler, 34, and Jeremy Lipka, 37.
  • First officer Rinku Summan, 32.
  • Loadmaster Michael Sheets, 36.
  • Jamie Brokaw, 33.
  • Gary Stockdale, 51.

Families of victims express grief

Brokaw, of Monroe, Mich., was an experienced navigator who was no stranger to dangerous flying situations and had the skills to stay cool in the face of danger, according to close friend Chris Connerton.

"He was a very good person and very smart person," Connerton told The Associated Press by telephone from Rochester, Minn.

Connerton said Brokaw was a key reason he was able to make it through flight school in Jacksonville, Fla., where they met.

Connerton also described a harrowing flight two years ago from Toledo, Ohio, to an international flight expo in Lakeland, Fla. Connerton said ice had built up on the plane to the point that he could no longer get it to climb.

"If it wasn't for Jamie's navigation and know-how ... we wouldn't have made it," Connerton said.

Stockdale also knew the dangers of flying, his older brother said Tuesday.

"He always said it was dangerous," said Glenn Stockdale, 55. "He would always say, `You either will die in a car crash or a ball of flame in a plane."'

Lipka had flow in Iraq as well as Afghanistan and had close calls before, said his stepfather, Dave Buttman.

"There was risk there all the time. He knew the risks. He volunteered to take the trips," Buttman told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. "Basically, you're taking your chances flying in there and he was just happy to be one of the pilots to do it."

The Boeing 747-400 crashed around 11:20 a.m. local time, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement Tuesday.

The accident site is within the perimeter of Bagram Air Base.

The NTSB said it will lead a team of three investigators to assist the Afghanistan Ministry of Transportation and Commercial Aviation in investigating the crash. But a ministry spokesman, Nangoialy Qalatwal, said Tuesday the ministry is not involved with the investigation because the crash occurred at a military and not a civilian airport.

The plane, owned by National Airlines, a subsidiary of National Air Cargo, was carrying vehicles and other cargo, according to National Air Cargo vice-president Shirley Kaufman.

'We're all devastated' 

Elena Garrett, of Jeffersonville, Ind., just across the Ohio River from Louisville, said ex-husband Timothy Garrett would have turned 52 on Saturday. They have two daughters together, ages 11 and 12.

"We're all devastated," Elena Garrett said about his death. "We were still best friends. He's the best father I've ever seen [and] ready to help anybody. He would give the shirt off his back for anybody."

Bill Hasler said his family learned Monday morning that his brother, Brad, was one of the crash victims.

"Brad was a wonderful father to two young children, a beloved husband to a wife who is expecting another child, a loving son, and the most loyal and supportive brother I could have ever asked for," Bill Hasler said in a statement. "His influence in the lives of all of us who loved him is immeasurable, and our grief is indescribable."

National Airlines was based until recently at Michigan's Willow Run Airport, west of Detroit. It carries cargo both commercially and for the military, Kaufman said. She said the company employs about 225 people.

Summan had worked 2½ years for National Air Cargo, said his wife, Rajnit Summan.

Rajnit Summan said she last spoke to her husband Sunday.

"I told him to be safe," she said.