By Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press
SPOKANE — Capt. Victoria A. Pinckney was a mother and college rugby player.
Capt. Mark T. Voss was a graduate of the Air Force Academy and was known for his smile.
Tech. Sgt. Herman Mackey III was humorous and the father of a young daughter.
All three died when their KC-135 tanker refueling plane crashed in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan on Friday.
All three were members of the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane and were operating out of a U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan that supports military operations in Afghanistan.
A public memorial service is being planned near the Eastern Washington state base for all three.
“These brave airmen leave behind an incredible legacy and remind all of us that freedom is never free,” said U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., whose district includes Fairchild. “Eastern Washington will forever honor Capt. Voss, Capt. Pinckney, and Tech. Sgt. Mackey for making the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation, and their service will never be forgotten.”
Spokane Mayor David Condon said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the three members of Fairchild Air Force Base and Spokane community who died serving their country.”
Pinckney, 27, was from Palmdale, Calif. She is survived by her husband; 7-month-old son; parents and two sisters.
Col. Brian Newberry, commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild, said Pinckney began sharing pictures of her son, Gabriel, soon after he was born.
“Not only was she a fine airman, but she was a mom,” Newberry said Sunday. “I remember all the happiness that she had.”
Pinckney played on the women’s rugby team at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she graduated in 2008, and she had a black belt in karate. She also liked to crochet and scrapbook, according to Fairchild officials.
Voss, 27, was from Boerne, Texas, and was also a 2008 graduate of the Air Force Academy.
Newberry said Voss was a “great aircraft commander.”
“Every time I saw him he would come forward and he would have a smile on his face,” Newberry said.
He graduated from pilot training in 2010 and was promoted to captain last May, Newberry said. He is survived by his parents, a brother and a sister.
Mackey, 30, was from Bakersfield, Calif., and previously had flown drones, Newberry said.
He is survived by his wife; daughter; mother; three sisters and two brothers.
His wife, Megan, told Fairchild officials that the man known as Tre would “light up the room with his humor and smile.”
The three were flying a plane that was assigned to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. Newberry said it was not uncommon for crews to fly planes from different bases.
“We will forever honor Tyler, Tori and Tre as patriots and heroes,” Newberry said. “Team Fairchild will do everything we can to support their families and friends during this profoundly difficult time.”
The last crash of a KC-135 involving a Fairchild crew occurred at the same base in Kyrgyzstan in 2006, but all the crew members survived.
In 1999, a KC-135 from Fairchild crashed near Geilenkirchen Air Base in Germany. Four crew members from the Washington Air National Guard’s 141st Air Refueling Wing, which is also based at Fairchild, died in that crash.
The KC-135 Stratotanker, a modified Boeing 707, has been flying for more than 50 years, and is used to refuel military aircraft in flight. The Air Force is in the process of replacing those planes over the next few years, and Fairchild is being considered as a home for the replacement planes.